The surgeon who led a team that completed the first double-lung transplant on a vaping patient in the U.S. said the damage to the 17-year-old’s lungs was unlike anything he’s seen in his decades of performing lung transplants.
“What I saw in his lungs is like nothing I’ve seen before, and I’ve been doing lung transplants for 20 years,” Dr. Hassan Nemeh, the Surgical Director of Thoracic Organ Transplant at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said at a press conference Tuesday, according to the New York Times.
Dr. Nemeh said the teen’s lungs were scarred, stiffened, pocked with dead spots and extremely inflamed. The patient’s chest appeared almost hollow on CT scans taken before the surgery because the lungs were completely void of air and thus didn’t show up on the images.
“This is an evil I haven’t faced before,” he said, adding that vapes were “a senseless type of product that needs to be fought.”
Dr. Nemeh and his team performed the double-lung transplant at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit last month. The male patient was just 16 when he was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 5 with symptoms that resembled pneumonia. His condition resisted treatment and he continued to decline even after being put on an ECMO machine that performed his breathing for him.
Facing “imminent death,” the teen was placed at the top of a lung transplant list on Oct. 8 and received his lung transplant a week later. The hospital said he faces a long and difficult recovery but is expected to do well.
The teen is one of 2,172 confirmed cases of severe lung injury linked to vaping in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that to date the outbreak of vaping illnesses has claimed 42 lives in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
CDC laboratory testing of fluid from the lungs of 29 patients with the vaping disease found vitamin E acetate present in all of the samples. Vitamin E acetate is sometimes used as an additive in the production of vape juice.
Vaping is often touted as a safer form of getting a nicotine fix than smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes, but study after study has shown that vaping is not at all safe.
“Chemicals in the vape juice can be harmful to the body. When they’re heated up they can turn into antifreeze, they can turn into benzene, they can turn into formaldehyde, all of which we know are really harmful to the human body,” said Cheryl Phillips, coordinator for St. Joseph Mercy Health Exploration Station in Canton, Michigan, in a video published by the Detroit Free Press.
Because vaping is a relatively new form of nicotine delivery that uses unique ingredients, researchers have a long way to go before understanding how all these elements affect the human body, especially over the long term.
The teen who received the lung transplant and his family wanted Henry Ford Medical Center to share his story with hope to sound a warning for others about the risks of vaping.
“We asked Henry Ford doctors to share that the horrific life-threatening effects of vaping are very real! Our family could never have imagined being at the center of the largest adolescent public health crisis to face our country in decades,” the family said in a statement.
Many U.S. minors were introduced to vaping by the San Francisco-based maker JUUL Labs, which for years targeted kids and young adults with its product design and marketing campaigns. Those efforts helped trigger an epidemic of youth vaping that continues to grow.
A recent government study determined that 28% of high school students and 11% of middle schoolers reported their ongoing use of vaping products.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett are handling cases involving injuries related to vaping. We are looking at cases involving adolescent addiction and injuries including seizures, strokes, lung problems, and cardiovascular problems related to the use of JUUL vaping devices. If you have these type cases, we would like to work with you.