Andy Baum had tried everything from the nicotine patch to hypnosis, but after 50 years of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, he hadn’t managed to kick the habit. “Nothing worked,” said the 62-year-old Edgewater resident. “But I knew I had to stop before it was too late.”
Because of his smoking history, Andy’s primary care physician, Eric Marcalus, MD, recommended him for AAMC’s lung screening program for patients who have a high risk of developing lung cancer. The CT scan Andy received is two-and-a-half times more effective at detecting early stage lung cancer than traditional X-rays. “I felt lucky that the screening was clear, and I thought if I don’t quit smoking now, I’m just killing myself,” Andy said.
Andy contacted smoking cessation nurse Joanne Ebner, RN, but just one day before their scheduled meeting, Andy ended up in the emergency room unable to breathe and subsequently had a four-day hospital stay. Both Joanne and Dr. Marcalus paid him a visit in the hospital, but the experience had convinced Andy he could quit on his own. It was the first time the retired New Jersey police officer had been on the receiving end of emergency care. “This really scared me and I thought I was cured.” Within a month, he was smoking again, and he enrolled in Joanne’s smoking cessation program.
“It was unbelievable what I learned,” Andy said. “It turned me right around. I learned how cigarettes control your life, and how the receptors in your brain make you want more.” In addition to hard facts, the program provided practical tips and tools to deal with cravings. “I had never heard about all the triggers that make you want to smoke,” Andy said.
Andy quit on February 14, 2012, and since then he feels great. “I used to get bronchitis two or three times a year, but I haven’t had it once this year. I have more energy, and food tastes great now.” Even his friends tell him he looks healthier and has more color in his face.
Andy has returned to the smoking cessation classes to encourage others to take control of their lives. “You’ve got to do it,” he says. “Life’s too short to be killing yourself with cigarettes.”