Looking at Brandon Carmichael you would think he leads a normal life. But after hearing Carmichael share his personal story during a tobacco awareness assembly at Macon High School, you would know his life has been far from normal.
Carmichael of Fargo, North Dakota started smoking when he was 15 years old. He gave into peer pressure and within time became addicted. At 18 years old, halfway to graduation day, Carmichael cut his big toe on a piece of glass. After about a week, he realized it wasn't healing. But what he didn't realize was that this small cut would change his life forever.
Carmichael visited a countless number of doctors regarding this cut that wouldn't heal. Months later, it was finally discovered that Carmichael had Buerger's Disease—a rare vascular disease that affects the bodily blood flow that progresses and is heightened by the use of tobacco. He started receiving treatment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was ordered to stay bed ridden and was home tutored. After 10 months of treatment, he was considered 90 percent healed and continued onto his "normal" life… His life that included smoking. After two short months, his toe, which had almost healed, turned severe. An angiogram showed blockage in his left knee approximately 6-8 inches long and a blockage in his right hip. He soon had his left leg amputated and thought he was done with cigarettes. Unfortunately, his struggle continued leading him to be a double amputee. His right leg was amputated in 2003 as well as some of his fingertips in 2006 and 2007. Today, after a 10-year struggle, Carmichael is smoke-free.
"I have zero health complications, although I still have Buerger's Disease, it is considered dormant because my body has rebounded completely since I cut out the tobacco use," said Carmichael. "I got married, I am currently in school and am booking more and more speaking engagements by the week."
Throughout Carmichael's presentation he mentioned that he was just a statistic—a statistic of how much tobacco costs the government, a statistic of how many lives have been affected by tobacco use—and how by giving these presentations he would hopefully help someone from becoming another statistic like himself.
"Out of these 700 kids, I don't have a doubt in my mind that I will change someone's life today," said Carmichael before the presentation. "When I am presenting I can tell who uses tobacco and who doesn't because those who do have their eyes on me and when I look at them they look away. And that is ok because I know I am reaching out to them that way."
Carmichael's presentation was sponsored by a Center for Disease Control Community Wellness grant through Macon County, Knox County and Clark County Health Departments.
Page 2 of 2 - "I just hope these kids remember these images whenever they go to take a puff off a cigarette or are asked to give into peer pressure," said High School
Principal Jeff Haley. "That those things will stick in their mind and help them say no