Majella’s story: smoking since aged 13, how she quit after 50 years

Majella McKeown, aged 63, who, is celebrating an entire year of no smoking thanks to the help of the South Eastern Trust’s Smoking Cessation Team.
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“I had been smoking since I was 13,” recalls Majella, “when it was trendy and your friends were doing it and it was seen to be ‘cool’ to smoke.

"I progressed from there and soon was smoking around 10-15 cigarettes a day.”

Majella, who lives in Dromara, explained how on many occasions she wanted to stop.

Majella McKeown with South Eastern Trust Smoking Cessation Co-Ordinator Alison Garrett. Pic credit: SEHSCTMajella McKeown with South Eastern Trust Smoking Cessation Co-Ordinator Alison Garrett. Pic credit: SEHSCT
Majella McKeown with South Eastern Trust Smoking Cessation Co-Ordinator Alison Garrett. Pic credit: SEHSCT

“I knew that smoking was bad for my health, but I didn’t stop until October 2023 when I had a frightening incident with my heart. I was rushed to hospital with ‘AF’ fast atrial fibrillation,” she explained.

"When I went to see cardiology, I got this lovely wee Doctor who said to me simply ‘you need to stop smoking’ and I thought yes, you are right and that did it for me. The penny just dropped. The Doctor asked what I could do to make myself healthier and not smoking was the first one.”

Majella said that the next step in her becoming a non-smoker was seeking the help and advice from the Cessation Team at the Ulster Hospital.

“The team were and are amazing, they are just so supportive,” she continued.

"They talking me through the programme and encouraged me every step of the way.

"I was given advice on how to stop smoking and started to look forward to their call as I knew when they called that here was someone on the other end who understands this, what stopping smoking meant.”

Majella marked one year of becoming a non-smoker on January 13 of this year.

“I am feeling very pleased with myself, it is a huge achievement and there is no looking back for me,” she said.

“I wouldn’t consider smoking again. I knew I needed a support network around me and I had that with the cessation team. As I said the team are excellent, you knew that they cared. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

Alison Garrett, Smoking Cessation Co-ordinator with the Trust explained how their programme consists of a 12-week programme.

“Across that 12 weeks we offer support with nicotine withdrawal and behaviour change,” Alison explained.

“Our patients are referred to us through hospital services attending as in our out patients.

"Over the 12 weeks we offer telephone call support. Behavioural support is looking at the habit of smoking and what changes that person can make to their lifestyle.”

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Alison continued: “There is no better time to stop smoking, however a patient has to figure out what their motivators are to help them stop.

"It is extremely difficult to stop smoking and they have to look at the reasons why they want to stop whether that is for health, their family, grandparents who want to see their grandchildren grow up or stop before the ‘op’ so to speak.

"We would always encourage patients who maybe struggling to give the team a call, we are very much here to help.”