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Patient says Ephrata smoking-cessation counselors saved his life

Monday, June 16, 2014

Berks County resident underwent open heart surgery at WellSpan York Hospital

Steve and Sarah Colamarino
Steve and Sarah Colamarino relax at their home in Sinking Spring, Berks County. While
attending the tobacco cessation program at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, Steve
began immediate treatment for a variety of cardiovascular problems, the byproducts of a lifetime of smoking.

Steve Colamarino of Sinking Spring smoked for 40 years. His wife, Sarah, for 30.

They tried to quit in the past and failed. This time would be different, they said.

They enrolled in the tobacco cessation program at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital Wellness Center.

Then came an unexpected turn.

Each week, while tobacco treatment specialist Sharon Czabafy addressed the class, CPR coordinator Tracy Van Marter sat in the back and recorded vital signs.

Van Marter took Steve’s blood pressure. “She told me, ‘You’ve got to get to the doctor,’” he said.

He began immediate treatment for a variety of cardiovascular problems, the byproducts of a lifetime of smoking.

“Everything was coming to a head,” Czabafy remembered. “He was a walking time bomb.”

The critical situation was all too familiar to Czabafy. She’s seen it many times during her 12 years of tobacco counseling.

“People just don’t realize that smoking is interrelated with every other chronic disease,” she said. “Nicotine is the most addictive drug known to humankind. It’s more addictive than heroin and cocaine.”

Steve and Sarah continued the seven-week program. When it came time to bid a final farewell to tobacco, Sarah chose the help of a nicotine patch. Steve couldn’t use any aids because of his health.

The Ephrata program follows CDC guidelines for effective tobacco cessation.

Roughly half of all participants remain smoke free three months later. Steve struggled, but he remembered the tips from class: Avoid situations that trigger urges.Focus on alternate activities. Eat right.

In January, the retired truck driver underwent an open-heart procedure by Larry Shears, II, MD, of WellSpan Cardiothoracic Surgery. It was a complete success.

Tobacco cessation program for residents in York and Adams counties

WellSpan offers the Freedom from Smoking Program, developed by the American Lung Association, for free to residents of York and Adams counties.

The eight-session program is designed to help people quit smoking, fight the addiction and develop a smoke-free lifestyle.

Residents in York and Adams counties also are eligible for free, one-on-one tobacco treatment planning sessions with a certified tobacco cessation counselor.

For a list of upcoming classes or to schedule one-on-one counseling, call the tobacco cessation educator in your county: Adams County (717) 338-3259; York County (717) 851-5857.

Today, Steve and Sarah are still tobacco free. Steve’s health improves a little more each day. He has begun a vigorous walking regimen, and he revels in the strength returning to his body. He credits the program with saving his life, and for finally making it smoke free.

“If it wasn’t for the class, I don’t think I would have succeeded,” he said.

“The classes are awesome,” Sarah echoed. The urge creeps up occasionally, she admits, but now she knows how to defeat it.

“The average smoker quits seven times before they stay quit,” noted Czabafy. She said Steve and Sarah offer further proof that even lifelong smokers can win.

“It’s never too late, and there is always help available,” she said. “You don’t have to do it alone.”

For more information on the Tobacco-Free Living program at the WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital Wellness Center call (717) 336-6578.

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