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Dad First, COPD Second
Dad First, COPD Second

Elizabeth provides support, insight and guidance for caregivers.

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Quitter's Flu

Go on, you can "aw" for my dad. I already have.

The night before last, it was the second time in a week that he awoke in the middle of the night complaining of stomach pains. For my mother and I this is a major red flag. Each of his COPD hospitalizations for pneumonia started with a stomach ache, a flu-like symptom.

Naturally, I also thought of other possible ailments. Maybe he had food poisoning, gas, or was channeling nervous energy. Then again, maybe he had a far more serious condition. But I also had a hunch that he was just plain full.  As he sat up in bed, I looked at his big belly. It wasn’t full of beer – no, that was long gone. It was full of crackers, three ubstantial meals, candies, and pistachio ice cream (the one I bought him last week).

I said, “Dad, you are overeating. It’s part of your smoking withdrawal. Remember, when you stopped drinking, you started eating more. You’re doing the same thing again.” He put his hand on his belly and let out a big “Ooof. I feel heavy.”

My mother and I couldn’t help but chuckle. It broke up the tension and the worry. I offered to bring him some tablets to help relieve his gas.

I went to get the chewables and I heard him blame his pain on the ice cream I bought him.

Right. It was my fault for getting him the creamy, green, nutty treat that he nagged I buy him as he looked at me with the eyes of an 8-year-old boy.

Withdrawal is not only common following addiction, it is expected. Clearly, my father is going through quitter’s flu as I type this. I can say “check” to the symptoms – his need to replace his “hand-to-mouth action of smoking;” his hacking cough; his restless sleeping, and his increased irritability.

He's hasn't bought cigarettes and he hasn't asked anyone to buy him a pack. He's really doing it. The fact that he carries almost no money with him might help. Mom is his CFO.

But compared to his other attempts, kudos are due him.

The tablets worked. He felt better, vowing, “No more ice cream.”

The next night as I was scooping out my nightly bowl of chocolate ice cream, dad yelled out, “Liz, can you serve me a bowl of my pistachio ice cream?”






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About the Author

Elizabeth cares for her mother, a diabetic, and for her father, who suffers from COPD.