St. Joseph’s Indian School holds sobriety celebrations to help students learn to say NO to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, and find healthy alternatives to substance abuse.
After the walk, Brandon Carmichael spoke to students about the dangers of tobacco. Carmichael was diagnosed with Buerger’s Disease in the spring of 1999, when he was 18 years old.
“We know smoking is dangerous,” Brandon told students. “We know about cancer and lung disease, but nobody ever told me about Buerger’s Disease, or that smoking could lead to losing my legs.”
Buerger’s Disease narrows or blocks blood vessels in the extremities. Carmichael has suffered from the condition for nearly 10 years and now works to educate others about the reality of this horrific disease.
“Nicotine controlled my life,” he said. “Even after I knew about my disease, I still smoked. I lost my left leg and knew the right one could be next. I could have prevented this… but I was hooked. I wish there was a way I could describe addiction it’s an amazingly powerful thing.”
Graphic photos depicted the progression of the loss of circulation in his legs, eventually leading to the amputation of both.
“Brandon left a strong impression with our students about the real risks of smoking,” said Chris, St. Joseph’s Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Prevention Coordinator.
“When smoking makes you so sick that you lose your limbs but still can't kick the habit without relapsing numerous times, something must be said for the power tobacco addiction can have over a person.”
To conclude his presentation to students, Carmichael pulled a plastic bag from behind the podium.
“This probably looks like a bag of sand to you,” he said to his audience. “It’s not sand. It’s ashes, in fact…the ashes of my right leg. I haven’t used a wheelchair for my entire life, so when I look at this bag I see memories. I see soccer and swimming and running. I see all the things I could still be doing if only I hadn’t smoked.”
To learn more about Brandon’s story, visit his Web site at http://www.smokinggotme.com/.