Becoming Smokefree for Surgery | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Becoming Smokefree for Surgery

Abbey Cameron,

ANZCA National Anaesthesia Day is celebrated each year across Australia and New Zealand on October 16, the anniversary of the day in 1846 that ether anaesthetic was first demonstrated in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Anaesthesia is one of the most significant discoveries of modern medicine. And many of today's operations, especially for the very young, very old or very ill would not be possible without it. 

Preparing for your anaesthesia is the theme of ANZCA 2019 National Anaesthesia Day. The aim is to help the community understand the importance of preparing for an anaesthetic – such as getting fit, stopping smoking or discussing any medical conditions or allergies they may have.

Northland DHB consultant anaesthetist Dr Lucy Stone says preparing for a major operation is a bit like preparing for a half marathon (or maybe a 5km run).  “The fitter you are, the easier the recovery will be.

“Your body needs to repair itself after surgery – eating a healthy diet before and after your surgery can really help."

Retired Whangarei plumber Kevin Marshall has made a significant change in his life to prepare for laminoplasty neck surgery to relieve the severe pain he experiences caused by Dystonia.  After trying a range of treatments to remove pressure from the spinal cord in his neck failed, he was referred for surgery 12 months ago.

Kevin said the first thing his surgeon told him was to give up smoking, which reduces infection, lung function and healing time. 

“He really meant it!  But that was the best thing he could have said because I've not had a smoke for nine months and it feels great."

He was also advised to try and get fitter which would also assist his recovery from surgery. 

Kevin and his wife Gabrielle both went cold turkey, and have managed to stay smokefree even while being tempted to buy cigarettes on a trip to Bali recently, where he said smokes were only $3 a packet.  However, living with the pain caused by Dystonia was no longer tolerable, so there was no way he would risk not being able to have surgery by smoking again.  

To get fit, he does the 5BX plan exercises that were developed for the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 1950s to improve flexibility, strength and to boost aerobic fitness.  He keeps active by gardening and doing jobs around the house, but is limited to what he can do with his neck being in so much pain. 

Dystonia has affected his quality of life and causes him to get very irritated.  Little things like watching his grandchildren’s winter sports have been out of the question because he can’t stand for long without needing to rest his neck.

However, after successfully giving up smoking, and being on the waiting list, he has finally had his pre-surgery consultation and his surgery is on October 7.

Northland DHB will be celebrating Anaesthesia Day with a display manned by the anaesthesia team outside the outpatients department to talk to patients and staff about the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices when preparing for surgery from 8.30am – 12.30pm.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) offers the following advice to those looking for more information on improving their physical activity: link) link)

Image:  Kevin Marshall


For further information, please contact:

Paula Martin, Communications Officer

Phone 09 4304101 extn 60519 

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