Murray, 70 from Dunedin first dabbled in smoking when he was around 10 years old. His dad smoked and everyone that came to the house smoked. By the time he was 14 Murray was smoking heavily. “I was working and earning money and this enabled me to smoke. There was no stigma about smoking in those days, and it was one of those things that was around and you just did it.”
It was in the 1990s that Murray started to notice he was getting a bit short of breath. He initially put it down to doing too much exercise. In 1995 he was given the diagnosis of emphysema and over time his health progressively got worse. In 2008 Murray had a complete blowout with his lungs and could not breathe. “If someone had told me to jump off the roof to get a breath of air I probably would have done that - that’s how bad it was.” Murray was given two choices. The first to carry on smoking and not live much longer, the second to stop smoking and make life a bit better for himself. Murray chose to stop smoking. “I couldn’t breathe and I just stopped. It would have been foolish of me to continue to smoke.”
In late 2008 Murray needed an operation due to a back injury, but because of his emphysema he was told the operation would be extremely risky. He was given a one in 100 chance of surviving the operation. “I had a flashback - this is what smoking has done to me.” Murray went ahead with the operation and fortunately it was successful.
After the operation Murray joined an exercise group run by Asthma Otago. “I was struggling to walk up a very small incline. I couldn’t walk very far.” However Murray continued to exercise and gradually could do more and more.
Murray now has to take multiple medications. All the steroids he is on have played havoc on his bones, and as a result he now has osteoporosis. He is often told to be very careful not to break any bones. While having bone scans all Murray could think about was all this from smoking. “Looking back, it really wasn’t worth it. It is unbelievable all the medications I am on – for my lungs, brain, breathing. Every month I get a prescription with at least 16 items on it, all associated with my lungs.”
The emphysema has had a big impact on Murray’s life. He used to be very active, enjoying fishing and walking for miles. That has all had to stop. His wife has also been impacted. “If I try to have a shower she has to be there to make sure I am okay. I really need someone there all the time.” Second-hand smoke impacts on Murray too. “We go to watch my granddaughter play sport and if someone is smoking I admit I do struggle when breathing in the smoke.”
Today, Murray continues to manage his emphysema with medication and by keeping as active as possible. “I smoked most of my life until I gave up smoking 12 years ago, and I’m now reaping the benefits of being smokefree. I’m keeping active, renovating my house and getting out with the grandkids,” says Murray.