WF double amputee in national smoking ad - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

WF double amputee in national smoking ad

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by Emily Welker

The ups and downs of a West Fargo man's life who lost both legs and the tips of both forefingers in his fight to quite smoking are being featured in the CDC's aggressive new anti-smoking ad campaign, "Tips from Former Smokers."

Brandon Carmichael says he remembers his first cigarette vividly. He was sitting in a West Fargo park with a bunch of other teenagers. He was the only one who wasn't smoking. It was the last time he'd consider himself a nonsmoker until he turned 27 years old -- almost a decade after a doctor diagnosed him with Buerger's disease, which inhibits circulation in young smokers.

"I remember trying to figure out how to get outside after my leg was amputated, in my wheelchair, in the snow, to smoke," says Carmichael of the first amputation. It didn't get him to stop smoking then, and it didn't later, after doctors had to take off the second leg.

The ad features Carmichael and another smoker discussing the effects of Buerger's disease, talking about how the disease begins and how it can take off fingers, toes, and limbs due to poor circulation. In it, a the woman displays her foot with missing toes, and Carmichael straps on his prosthetic legs. Carmichael says looking back on how he watched his limbs blacken, the skin peeling off due to lack of circulation, it's amazing to him that he was still so addicted, he didn't stop smoking. He says he eventually became so ill his body was covered in sores, and was fighting for his life. He eventually required a home health care nurse.

That woman is now Melissa Carmichael, Brandon's wife and the mother of their seven-month-old son, Bentley. Carmichael says the two of them are a blessing in an otherwise difficult life story, and that if it weren't for the path he's taken, he would never have had either of them. But it still bothers him that because he smoked, he won't be able to run after Bentley when he begins to walk.

Some critics have objected to what they call "scare tactics" by the CDC and other anti-smoking groups which feature graphic images of the ravages of smoking upon the human body. I ask Carmichael if he thinks it's fair to call his ad a scare tactic. "No," he says, admitting the question takes him off guard. "It's real. It's what happened. I'd call it a truth tactic."

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