A Michigan teenager was the recipient of what could be the first double lung transplant on a person whose lungs were severely damaged from vaping, health officials said on Tuesday.
Physicians at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, described to reporters the procedure that saved the 17-year-old’s life and pleaded for the public to understand the dangers of vaping.
The teenager was admitted in early September to a Detroit-area hospital with what appeared to be pneumonia. He was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and taken on Oct. 3 to Henry Ford Hospital, where the transplant was performed on Oct. 15.
The double lung transplant is believed to be the first performed on a patient due to vaping.
An “enormous amount of inflammation and scarring” was found on the teenager’s lungs, said Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of thoracic organ transplant at the hospital. “This is an evil I haven’t faced before. The damage that these vapes do to people’s lungs is irreversible. Please think of that — and tell your children to think of that.”
Health officials declined to release the teenager’s name and said he is expected to recover. They also did not specify what he vaped or how long he had vaped.
“We asked Henry Ford doctors to share that the horrific life-threatening effects of vaping are very real,” his family said in a statement released by the hospital. “Our family could never have imagined being at the center of the largest adolescent public health crisis to face our country in decades.”
“Within a very short period of time, our lives have been forever changed,” it said. “He has gone from the typical life of a perfectly healthy 16-year old athlete — attending high school, hanging out with friends, sailing and playing video games — to waking up intubated and with two new lungs, facing a long and painful recovery process as he struggles to regain his strength and mobility, which has been severely impacted.”
The boy had his 17th birthday after initially being admitted to hospital.
More than 2,000 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March, many of them teenagers and young adults, and at least 40 people have died.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week announced a breakthrough into the cause of a vaping illness outbreak, identifying the chemical compound vitamin E acetate as a “very strong culprit” after finding it in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients.
Vitamin E acetate has been found in liquid from e-cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many who had got sick and only recently has been used as a vaping fluid thickener.
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