WRANGELL, Alaska – My Grandma, Yvonne (Bakke) Stough, started smoking in 1942 at the age of 17. Grandma said “I started smoking because everybody smoked. Back then we didn’t know it was bad for you.”
She married my Grandpa Richard Stough, in 1949. He smoked an average of three packs a day. “We were married for 54 years. He died in 2003 from smoking. He had lung cancer.” Grandpa did not stop smoking even while he was dying and had to be on oxygen. Even though grandpa was dying from his addiction to smoking, grandma kept smoking. She was too addicted.
In 2011 grandma had a massive heart attack and almost died. While in the intensive care unit at the hospital used nicotine patches to help grandma with her powerful urge to smoke.
It took roughly two years for grandma to recover the majority of her muscle strength, coordination, and cognitive impairments from the massive heart attack. During this period of time, she was in long term care and the Sitka Pioneer Home where they worked with her to learn how to feed herself, to strengthen her muscles and heal mentally from her heart attack. With the assistance of the nicotine patches, grandma chose to quit smoking even though she had many opportunities to smoke.
In 2013 grandma moved back to Wrangell, Alaska and moved in with my mom and dad (her son). She lives half of the year in our small island town and the other half she lives with them, remotely in a cabin, on the Stikine River. She is in a wheel chair but exercises her legs daily to maintain strength so she can get in and out of her wheel chair without assistance. This is quite exciting since she is 91 years old. A lasting effect of her y ears of smoking is that she has COPD. It is managed daily with three medications.
My family is so proud of Grandma Stough for quitting smoking after 74 years from 1942 to 2011. My aunt and I have estimated that over the course of the 74 years, she smoked 50,370 packs of cigarettes.
Grandma says “I am proud that I quit when I was 86 years old. I am also proud that my three children do not smoke, only one of my eight grandchildren smoke and none of my eight great-grandchildren smoke. I tell anyone I see smoking to stop because it is going to kill you!”
If you use tobacco, you can quit. There is available at 1-855-372-0037 with the American Indian Commercial Tobacco Quitline. if you are a health care provider, please refer patients to tobacco treatment at whatever age. A combination of counseling and medication has been proven to be most effective.
My grandma is a 91 year old strong, loving, and wonderful Tlingit woman. We are so blessed that she survived her heart attack and continues to share stories and her love with all of us.