Former smoker battling back from throes of lung disease
James "JC" Taylor can remember every brand of cigarettes from Pall Mall to Marlboro in the nearly half century that he smoked.
"I smoked every one that was made. I started smoking when I was 8," the 63-year-old Bowling Green man said. "I was smoking four packs a day when I was 16 - Camels, in fact."
It was a Marlboro Ultra Light, though, that ended Taylorâ€™s love affair with cigarettes a little more than six years ago. He said he knew it would be his last puff.
"I knew something was wrong," he said. "It burned all the way down and all the way back up."
He ended up at the hospital soon afterward. He had already been carrying portable oxygen daily because the abuse his lungs took from years of smoking made it hard to breathe, but he had an epiphany when he took a hard look at the equipment in the hospital that was helping to keep him alive.
"I had the oxygen turned up to four, and seven different IVs," he said. "After I had been in the hospital for four days, the doctor told me he didnâ€™t think I was going to live and that if I was, I couldnâ€™t smoke another cigarette."
Taylor quit cold turkey. He had tried various things, including hypnosis and nicotine patches and gum in the past, but they never worked.
"This time I asked God to help me," he said. "Before, I hadnâ€™t gotten sick and tired of being sick and tired. You have to want to quit more than you donâ€™t want to."
Taylorâ€™s wife, Clara, 61, agreed that smoking is a hard habit to break. She, too, smoked four packs a day and needed extra oxygen to breathe. She said her lungs were also affected by years of dealing with chemicals when she worked in a factory.
"Anybody can quit. It is a drug and you have to fight it," she said of cigarette smoking. "I quit three days after he did. We were in the hospital at the same time."
Taylor noticed improvement once he got out of the hospital and continued to not smoke. Four months after his hospital stay, he no longer needed his portable oxygen.
But he still got tired easily. Clara Taylor was already going to Healthy Hearts Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, which is affiliated with The Heart Institute at The Medical Center. She asked the staff if her husband could work out with her. After Taylor got permission from his doctor, he began working out at the center last October.
"I had to start using my oxygen when I first started back about six to eight weeks," he said.
Now Taylor is oxygen free and getting in better shape. When he started rehab on Oct. 21, he weighed 208 pounds with 38 percent body fat. In February, he weighed 195 with 24 percent body fat.
"I can smell the roses and blow out the candles. I did it with Godâ€™s help," he said. "My wife has helped me out a lot, too. Weâ€™ve helped one another."
He goes to rehab twice a week to ride stationary bicycles, use the weight machines and walk on the treadmills. He also walks three days a week at the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department.
"I feel better at 63 than I did at 43," he said.
Taylor said he can now help a friend who was kind enough to mow his yard when he could not.
"I can do for others what they used to have to do for me," he said.
Clara Taylor said she is proud of her husband. Although her doctor has told her she would probably need portable oxygen for the rest of her life, she believes that no one on oxygen should give up hope.
"I think I will be able to go for short periods of time without it. Donâ€™t give up," she said. "People who take oxygen often think itâ€™s over. I know there are people that can go out shopping and donâ€™t do it (because they are taking oxygen)."
Taylorâ€™s next goal is to tackle Mammoth Cave National Park. He remembered a time a few years ago when he visited the park while he still needed extra oxygen.
"People were going in the hollows, and I wanted to go so bad, but I didnâ€™t think Iâ€™d be able to get back up," he said. "As soon as it gets warmer, Iâ€™m going to hike about six miles at Mammoth Cave."