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May 21, 2012 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Student Health – Where Is Grandma?

Recently my brother visited New Zealand with his wife and children. Natalie, my four-year-old niece, was really excited because she thought she would be able to spend time with her Grandma. At kindergarten she had heard friends talk about their Grandmothers. When anyone asked Natalie about her impending trip she would talk about when she got here she would spend time baking, reading books, making crafts and going shopping with Grandma. We all wished that this could have happened but instead we had to take Natalie to our local cemetery to show her where her Grandma is buried. When we showed Natalie Mum’s grave, Natalie asked ‘She is here?’ and went silent. Instead of the fun times she had imagined with her Grandma Natalie helped my father arrange flowers on Mum’s grave. It is a great sadness for all our family that Natalie has been unable to meet her grandmother as my mother was an amazing woman who we all loved and respected. Mum would have enjoyed being able to spend time with Natalie. A family is richer and stronger when links spread across generations.

We should still have Mum with us but she died 15 years before she should have and before her grandchildren were born*. Mum should still be here with us to be our matriarch, to share stories of our ancestors and history, to enjoy retirement with Dad and, well, just be there.

Mum started smoking at 21 when it was considered glamorous and sophisticated, and even portrayed insome advertisements as healthy. When mum was a young you could virtually smoke anywhere, even in hospitals and in medical centres. What started as an occasional cigarette escalated over the years and towards the end of her life she was smoking between two and half to three packets a day. Like most smokers, Mum tried to stop smoking but unfortunately was unable to. She did not have access to the support and knowledge we have today. Mum’s last two doctors were smokers and they would often be seen smoking outside the local medical centre.

The only nicotine replacement patches Mum ever had were the ones after she was admitted to hospital after a severe stroke which left her paralysed down one side of her body and unable to eat or drink without choking. Mum died a few weeks later from aspiration pneumonia.

Support is available at the Student Health Service (SHS)for people who would like to discuss or stop smoking. We can provide you with prescriptions for nicotine replacement patches, gum and lozenges, provide lots of encouragement and give you helpful tips and strategies about how to become smoke free. If you are enrolled as a patient at the SHS appointments are free.

Free support is also available from Quitline 0800 778 778 http://www.quit.org.nz/

*on average each smoker cuts short their life by 15 years. One out of every two smokers will die as a direct result of their smoking and a quarter of those will die between the ages of 35 and 69 years. 

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