Doctors at Atlanta’s Northside Hospital Forsyth have expressed alarm over the number of patients they have treated for severe vaping-related lung injuries in recent months, including a 17-year-old boy whose lungs were nearly destroyed after vaping for a year.
Even Amy Sedgwick, a nurse at Northside and the teen’s mother, had trouble processing what was happening to her son. On July 6, he complained that he couldn’t breathe. His condition worsened and doctors discovered that his left lung had collapsed.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the teen was admitted to Northside where his lung injuries manifested as sweating, shaking and vomiting. His slowly recovering left lung was barely functioning when his right lung collapsed days later.
The teen’s lung doctor told Ms. Sedgwick that in more than two decades of practice, she had never seen both of a teenager’s lungs collapse without some trauma like a car crash to blame.
The teen is now at home recovering, but his mother worries about how the vaping injury will affect his lungs in the future. After all, they will serve him through decades of life. Both lungs are permanently stapled to seal them. Will the damage that vaping did to his lungs pose problems in the future? What about the toxic effects of vaping chemicals on the lungs? Will they increase the chances of lung cancer?
The Georgia teen is one of at least 2,290 confirmed cases of “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury,” or EVALI in the U.S. The outbreak of lung injuries is blamed for 49 deaths so far, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Three of those deaths have been in Georgia.
Justine Henao, a doctor of internal medicine doctor at Northside Hospital, testified in early November to Georgia lawmakers addressing the “vaping crisis” that has gripped the state and the rest of the nation. According to the AJC, Dr. Henao told the lawmakers that vaping was the common thread behind a rash of collapsed lungs at her hospital. She said that she had never heard of a case like Ms. Sedgwick’s son in her 12 years at the hospital, but in the past few months there had been four cases.
Recent CDC laboratory test results of fluid samples from 29 patients sickened in the outbreak of vaping illnesses found vitamin E acetate in all of the samples. THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, was identified in 82% of the samples and nicotine was identified in 62% of the samples.
Most of the patients suffering from EVALI are teens and young adults. JUUL Labs of San Francisco finds itself shouldering most of the blame for the youth vaping epidemic. The company’s products and advertising campaigns specifically targeted kids and young adults. And although JUUL’s products haven’t been implicated in the deadly outbreak of lung injuries, it is easy for people to refill JUUL pods with their own vape juice or with black market products.
Despite the youth vaping epidemic and the outbreak of vaping illnesses, the Trump administration recently reneged on its vow to “clear the market” of flavored vaping products, indicating that doing so would hurt vaping industry jobs.
Ms. Sedgwick told the AJC that parents need to know that vaping can kill their children. She said it “needs to be banned” in the U.S. “How can they sell this crap to kids and think that it’s OK?”
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. On Oct. 7 they also filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts in three states, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic.