Described by friends as an “extreme” smoker, Marc Lawrence, now 51, often had two cigarettes burning simultaneously.
Nothing swayed him from smoking, including the death of his beloved mother from lung cancer. He even smoked during his heart attack as he waited for his sister to take him to the hospital.
Having smoked for 36 years since he was a young boy, the Great Neck resident owes his success to a nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH), nurses at the North Shore-LIJ Center for Tobacco Control and his fellow members of the center’s quit-smoking support group.
Now a nonsmoker, Mr. Lawrence has bought himself time, reducing future damage to his health. “People who quit smoking after a heart attack or cardiac surgery reduce their risk of death by 36 percent,” said Patricia Folan, RN, DNP, director of the Center for Tobacco Control. “Patients are more likely to suffer a second heart attack within that first year if they continue to smoke.”
The former construction firm owner learned about NSUH’s quit-smoking program from James Baez, RN, while recuperating from having a stent placed in his right coronary artery.
“[Mr. Baez] was so nonjudgmental and didn’t say ‘Shame on you for smoking,’” Mr. Lawrence said. Soon after his discharge from the hospital, Mr. Lawrence learned more about the smoking- cessation program from Christine Fardellone, RN, at the Center for Tobacco Control. Ms. Fardellone was so “friendly and kind,” he said, as she described the free one-hour-a-week, six-week program, nicotine replacement therapy and weekly support group available. An avid participant today, Mr. Lawrence rarely misses a Tuesday evening meeting.
Still attracted to the smell of cigarettes (“I could practically levitate over to it”), he remains smoke-free, to his own amazement. Validating his choice to quit, Mr. Lawrence kept a pack of cigarettes on his coffee table for a year. To celebrate the milestone of remaining a nonsmoker, he burned the pack in a “funeral” with his friends from the support group.
“It blows my mind,” Mr. Lawrence said. “My mother would have been so happy, and my nieces and nephews are glad their uncle took action to stick around for a while.”
Mr. Lawrence, who recently became a caregiver for a homebound patient, remains grateful for the help he got from the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “I can’t say enough about the staff, the nurses and the support group.”
Although Mr. Baez is pleased he made an impression, he credits Mr. Lawrence for his own determination. “It’s always great to hear when patients turn their lives around for the better.”