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Smoke-free and loving life

Media Release

Date: 17 December, 2012

Smoke-free and loving life

Tamati Parkes gets some rehab work on his finger by hand therapist Rebecca Ralph, acting clinical leader at Waikato Hospital’s Hand Therapy, Burns and Scar Management clinic.

Tamati Parkes has kept his promise – and his ring finger.

The 38-year-old – a smoker since he was 11 – has been off the cigarettes to honour a large team at Waikato Hospital who reattached the finger after a work accident earlier this year.

“I had to cut my fingers off to realise I had to give up smoking. I want other people to know it doesn’t have to be that hard,” he says.

Tamati arrived at the hospital on October 4 with the two outside fingers of his left hand hanging off after an accident at a meatworks.

“I told the doctors to just cut the skin off. I wanted to get out of there and have a smoke.

“I changed my mind when after three times of telling them [to cut the skin] they still wanted to save the fingers.

“I didn’t want to waste their time and the money it costs to go into surgery.’’
After 20 hours of surgery by a team of about 20 and “amazing” care afterward, Tamati said he had to keep his promise to stop smoking.

Cigarette smoking would have compromised the operation as smoking narrows the blood vessels. But the little finger didn’t make it due to damage and blood vessel size.

“I’ve got nine fingers now instead of 10 so there’s a little reminder of my past life,” says Tamati.

“I wake up every day and think of the good people at Waikato Hospital who helped me change my life.

“Every time I walk into Hand Therapy it is a reminder of how life-changing this place is.

“It’s a beautiful life being smoke-free. I can smell perfumes and flowers – you truly do appreciate that.

“So Waikato Hospital has basically fixed up my life. It’s all about giving back for me now.”

That philosophy sees Tamati visiting a woman he helped after she was hit by a car in Hamilton East last month. She remains in hospital and Tamati calls in every Thursday after his hand therapy outpatients appointment.

Cigarettes are not the only thing Tamati has given up. He has turned his back on a former life which also included drugs and alcohol. Other good things have followed. He’s back in contact with his daughter, 17, and is a Sunday regular at a Hamilton church.

Life’s going well and maybe in a new direction next year, as he is keen on working with at-risk youth. “That’s just because I can now. And being smoke-free I see myself having a future.’’

And although Tamati has kept that ring finger, there’s no ring on it. “It would be nice to meet someone special one day. But that’s not a big priority for me right now.”


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