Bill was born and raised in Michigan and was diagnosed with diabetes when he was an infant. He was angry with himself that he ever accepted that first cigarette from a teenage friend and that he waited so long to quit smoking. “When I was 15, I started smoking. It was stupid—one of the things I still regret doing. I thought I was going to be cool like my buddies.”
Bill learned the hard way that smoking makes diabetes harder to control. “Doctors always told me to quit smoking. I didn’t listen.” At 37, Bill had kidney failure. After that, he needed dialysis treatments 12 hours every week to filter his blood the way his kidneys used to—before they stopped working properly. Smoking cigarettes contributed to Bill’s kidney problems and other health problems to come.
“Then they took my leg,” Bill said. In 2011, at the age of 39, he had his leg amputated due to poor circulation—made worse from smoking. “That’s the scariest thing—to wake up after surgery, to reach down to feel for your leg, and there’s nothing there.” That was the day Bill quit smoking.
Bill’s life changed dramatically. Although he was still very active, he said it was difficult to climb stairs, play sports, and do some activities with his wife and four children.
By age 40, Bill was also blind in one eye and had gone through open-heart surgery. Summing up his serious health problems, Bill said, “I am the reason people shouldn’t smoke.”
Bill’s own health struggles made him passionate about helping other people stop smoking. And he urged young people to never start smoking. “If I was young again, I would never smoke,” he said. “It’s not good for your health or your pocketbook. It doesn’t make you look cool, and it doesn’t help you in any way!” He also regretted the example he set for his children. “It’s embarrassing when your 5-year-old asks you why you don’t quit smoking. Yes, my children saw me smoke. I’m glad they saw me quit!”
Bill died in August 2014 from heart disease. He was 42.
Bill, 40, Michigan; diagnosed with diabetes; had other health problems, too