Orlan Holmes - Fort Wayne, Allen County

Unlike the vast majority of adult smokers, Orlan Holmes didn’t start smoking when he was young. He smoked three packs a day, starting in his 20s, when he was living free and a little wild. “I had to skew the statistics; typical for me. I needed something to do while I was hitchhiking across the country. I thought I could quit anytime I wanted, but I was just kidding myself.” At the age of 52, he was an assistant manager for a Dollar Tree in Fort Wayne and got sick with pneumonia. He spent 13 days in the hospital and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“My doctor told my oldest daughter to put my affairs in order.”

Orlan quit smoking for six months, but a stressful family situation led him to pick up cigarettes again, even with only 16% lung capacity. After realizing he couldn't live independently for much longer, he quit smoking for good and sought out a life-saving double-lung transplant from his pulmonologist.

“I knew I couldn’t breathe to get back up the stairs. I knew I didn’t want to die on a ventilator.”

Six years ago Orlan received the transplant and, just three years later, he participated in the American Lung Association’s stair climb fundraiser. He now spends hundreds of hours a year giving back, running a support group and participating in about 20 to 25 health fairs a year to help smokers quit. He wants to see the cigarette tax raised and put cigarettes in another room, where they would be less enticing and accessible to youth and adults alike. He knows that smokers need help to quit.

“Tobacco is one of the most addictive drugs there is. I could lose my job, my wife, my dog, and my Chevy could blow up, but cigarettes always gave me that same euphoric high.”

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