Illinois teen, 18, who vaped a JUUL pod every other day before he was hospitalized with breathing illness says his lungs are so damaged they look like 'a 70-year-old's'

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  • Adam Hergenreder, 18, from Gurnee, Illinois, started vaping when he was 16
  • He started with flavored nicotine e-cigarette liquid before switching to THC
  • Earlier this year, he began experiencing nausea and was vomiting every day
  • An X-ray eventually revealed that Hergenreder’s lungs were so damaged that they looked like a 70-year-old man’s
  • Hergenreder was hospitalized with a severe breathing illness and says he doesn’t know if his lungs will ever fully recover
  • Across the US, 450 people have come down with mysterious lung illnesses believed to be related to vaping
  • On Wednesday, the Trump administration proposed a nationwide ban on flavored e-cigarette products  

Adam Hergenreder, 18, from Gurnee, Illinois, started vaping every other day when he was 16 years old. Pictured: Hergenreder in the hospital

Adam Hergenreder, 18, from Gurnee, Illinois, started vaping every other day when he was 16 years old. Pictured: Hergenreder in the hospital 

Earlier this year, Hergenreder (pictured, vaping) began experiencing nausea and was vomiting every day

An X-ray eventually revealed that his lungs (pictured) were so damaged that they looked like a 70-year-old man's

Earlier this year, Hergenreder (left, vaping) began experiencing nausea and was vomiting every day. An X-ray eventually revealed that his lungs (right) were so damaged that they looked like a 70-year-old man’s

Hergenreder (pictured) was hospitalized with a severe breathing illness and says he doesn't know if his lungs will ever fully recover

Hergenreder (pictured) was hospitalized with a severe breathing illness and says he doesn’t know if his lungs will ever fully recover

The teenager is one of 450 people across the country that have come down with mysterious lung illnesses believed to be related to vaping. Pictured: Hergenreder in the hospital

The teenager is one of 450 people across the country that have come down with mysterious lung illnesses believed to be related to vaping. Pictured: Hergenreder in the hospital

On Wednesday, the Trump administration proposed a nationwide ban on flavored e-cigarette products. Pictured, left to right: Hergenreder (before his illness) with his brothers Cory, Noah, and Brandon

On Wednesday, the Trump administration proposed a nationwide ban on flavored e-cigarette products. Pictured, left to right: Hergenreder (before his illness) with his brothers Cory, Noah, and Brandon

An Illinois teenager says his years of vaping landed him in the hospital with severe lung damage and fighting for his life.

Adam Hergenreder, 18, from Gurnee, Illinois, started vaping – both nicotine and THC – every other day when he was 16 years old.

Earlier this year, he started experiencing nausea and near-constant vomiting, but assumed he had the flu.

However, after visiting several doctors, a full X-ray of his lungs revealed that they were so damaged, they looked like those of a man in his 70s, CNN reported.

Hergenreder is among 450 people across the US who have contracted mysterious breathing illnesses believed to be related to vaping. 

In response to the outbreak, President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday a ban on flavored vaping products – aside from tobacco – from store shelves. 

So far, six deaths, suspected to be linked to vaping, have been reported in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that federal- and state- level scientists said they believe an oil derived from Vitamin E found in cannabis vapor may be responsible for the lung damage in many of the illnesses. 

But use of e-cigarettes has surged since they were introduced to the US marketplace in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And they continue to be the most used tobacco product among US teens.

A 2017 report from the US Surgeon General found a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use among young people between 2011 and 2015.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration proposed a nationwide ban on flavored e-cigarettes, in an attempt to discourage vaping among minors. 

‘Why is that important? We are seeing an absolute surge in high school and middle school kids using these flavored products,’ said US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement on Wednesday. ‘Mint, menthol, fruit flavor, alcohol flavor, bubble gum.

When Hergenreder started vaping, he was drawn to the mint-and mango-flavored nicotine e-liquids.

However, he eventually started using sticks of THC – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana – bought off the street.

Hergenreder told CNN that, at the time, he thought vaping was safe.  

‘I first started vaping just to fit in, because everyone else was doing it,’ he said. ‘It didn’t taste like a cigarette. It tasted good.’

He was never once asked to prove his age when he bought e-cigarettes, including JUULs, from his local gas station, CNN reported.

Hergenreder’s mother, Polly, said her son was vaping at least one pod – or a pod-and-a-half every other day. 

According to the CDC, one JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 traditional cigarettes.

Earlier this year, Hergenreder began developing uncontrollable shivers. Then, he started feeling nauseous and vomiting constantly. 

‘I was just non-stop throwing up every day for three days,’ he told CNN. ‘Finally, I went to the pediatrician.’

His doctor prescribed him anti-nausea medication, but it didn’t help. Eventually, after visiting multiple doctors, one asked if he was vaping – and the teen responded ‘yes’.

CNN reported that physicians performed a CT scan and then an X-ray of his lungs.

That’s when he learned that his lungs were so damaged that they were comparable to a 70-year-old man’s.   

‘It was scary to think about that – that little device did that to my lungs,’ Hergenreder said. 

‘If I had known what it was doing to my body, I would have never even touched it, but I didn’t know. I wasn’t educated.’

Hergenreder was admitted to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Illinois, and placed on oxygen. Doctors also started him on a course of antibiotics and steroids.

Dr Stephen Amesbury, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Advocate Condell Medical Center who treated Hergenreder, told CNN that the teen was on the brink of death. 

‘If his mom had not brought him to the hospital within the next two to three days, his breathing could have worsened to the point that he could have died if he didn’t seek medical care,’ Dr Amesbury said. 

Hergenreder spent several days in the hospital before he was discharged, but doctors warned him that his lungs may not recover for weeks or even months.    

‘It’s still difficult to even do normal activities, like going upstairs,’ he said. ‘I still get winded from that.’

Both Hergenreder and his family said they want to share his story to educate others on the dangers of vaping and convince them to quit.

‘I don’t want to see anybody in my situation,’ he told CNN. ‘I don’t want to see anybody in the hospital for as long as I was.’ 

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) blasted vaping company JUUL for illegally pitching its e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking.

‘The law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful,’ said Ned Sharpless, the FDA’s acting head.

‘JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth,’ he added.

The warning letter identified several problematic statements made by a JUUL representative speaking at a school at an unspecified date, including that the product was ‘much safer than cigarettes’ and that ‘FDA would approve it any day.  



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