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“They’ve given me hope and something to fight for”: Former builder praises support from UHNM stop smoking team

A former Stoke-on-Trent builder today said how smoking had ‘taken everything away from him’ following a devastating diagnosis.

Ronald Carnell, from Meir faced losing both his legs and required a stent fitting after years of smoking left his arteries severely blocked.

Now the 59-year-old is dependant on the use of a wheelchair and the care of his partner. Today, On No Smoking Day, he encouraged others to kick the habit after the Smoking Cessation team from University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) “gave him hope and something to live for.”

He said: “I started smoking very young at around 14 years old. If I was having a nice, steady day, I would smoke around eight to ten cigarettes. On a really bad day I could smoke 20 to 25.

“A couple of years ago I started suffering with numbness from the waist down, without warning it would just come. An appointment with the vascular team at UHNM was made and after a number of tests it was found that the arteries around my heart were all severely blocked.

“These blockages were stopping the blood getting to my legs. What started off with an ulcer the size of a pea ended up much larger and was progressively getting worse. There was the possibility that I would have both my legs amputated.

“One night we were sat at home when the phone rang. The vascular surgical team at Royal Stoke wanted me in the next day. They’d given me a second chance at life by deciding to fit a stent. There was no ‘plan b’ after this, this was it.

“I was in Royal Stoke nearly six weeks after having the stent fitted. I cannot thank the team at UHNM enough for all they’ve done for me, everyone from the doctors to nurses were fantastic. This stent runs from my heart all the way down my abdomen and into both legs. This tube is keeping me alive.”

Ronald said his life had been destroyed by smoking. He added: “It’s destroyed my life, basically I’ve destroyed my life through smoking. It’s took everything away from me. I was very fit when I was younger, I was in the army, I was into my running and was active as well through my work in the building trade.

“All of this was taken away from me in one go through smoking. I never thought I would end up like this and to see what smoking has done to me and how it’s torn me and my family to pieces, it’s hard to explain the pain. I’m lucky to be here, I didn’t think I’d see Christmas last year.”

Whilst recovering in hospital following the fitting of the stent, Ronald was referred to UHNM’s Smoking Cessation Team. He received stop smoking support and advice from Mario Picones, a Smoking Cessation Practitioner.

Mario said: “Our service has just celebrated its first birthday and each month we support hundreds of inpatients at UHNM to quit smoking. Patients are screened upon admission and given advice and materials to help them to make the decision to stop smoking. Every patient is offered nicotine replacement therapy and a referral to an external clinic with further support available to patients who require additional help from us.”

Speaking about the support received from Mario, Ronald said: “The Smoking Cessation team at UHNM were absolutely brilliant. They helped me and I thought nobody would be able to help me, I’d given up hope.

“Mario encouraged me, he didn’t try and force things on me - he supported me. The team put me on the right track and gave me hope and something to fight for.

“My message to smokers is simple- stop smoking. Think of those who are with you now, your loved ones, because its those who suffer as well. Really think about what its doing you you and them, because I didn’t realise until it was too late.”