"I was suffocating to death!" That's how Michael—a veteran, an Alaska Native, and member of the Tlingit tribe—thinks back to why he quit smoking. A smoker since he was 9, Michael was addicted to cigarettes for most of his adult life, including the 2 years he served in the U.S. Army. At 44, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD—a condition also referred to as chronic bronchitis or emphysema—that makes it harder and harder to breathe. He ignored the symptoms until age 52, when he awoke gasping for air. He quit smoking that day.
Since then, Michael has had to have part of his lungs removed to improve his condition. However, COPD does not go away, and Michael now needs a lung transplant. He desperately wants to be around for his grandchildren, but he feels he’s running out of time.
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