‘I came very close to dying’: Fort Atkinson teen urges others to stop vaping
UW Health experts also discuss vaping crisis
MADISON, Wis. —
Doctors with the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison treated their first vaping patient in the pediatric intensive care unit.
The 16-year-old boy talked about his near-death experience Thursday morning, along with his care team.
“I am just one of many teenagers who used to Juul,” Logan Krahn said about his experience with vaping.
“I came really close to dying.” 16-year-old Logan speaks out at @UWHealth about the dangers of vaping as he deals with lung issues from something he thought was safer than smoking. @WISCTV_News3 pic.twitter.com/cuWo224UyD
— Madalyn O’Neill (@news3madalyn) October 3, 2019
Juul is a company that makes electronic cigarettes. Juul e-cigarettes have a USB-drive design that uses liquid pods. The pods often contain nicotine, flavorings, and other substances, according to American Academy of Pediatrics.
“I thought that Juuling was safer than smoking regular cigarettes. I was wrong,” Krahn said.
Krahn went to a doctor two weeks ago for nausea. He was admitted to his hometown hospital in Fort Atkinson, where doctors initially believed he had a severe case of dehydration. They then determined he was dealing with pneumonia.
“It turned out to be far worse than that,” Krahn said. “My lungs kept filling up with fluids and became so severely inflamed that I could not breathe on my own.”
“From a mother’s standpoint, I was scared, very scared, not knowing if your son’s going to make it or not,” said his mother, Rebecca Krahn. She said that in the beginning, she had no idea her son vaped.
Krahn was sent to American Family Children’s Hospital, where doctors began treating him for chemical pneumonia caused by vaping.
“I have suffered life-long damage to my lungs. I have a long recovery ahead of me. This experience has changed my life tremendously,” Krahn said.
His doctors are currently treating the teen with steroids. They are still working on a long-term plan, but they say they will continue to monitor his lung function as he recovers.
The CDC has issued health warnings about vaping and teenagers. The agency reports that Juul uses nicotine salts, which allow particularly high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily than other tobacco products. The CDC also found that about two-thirds of Juul users between the ages of 15 and 24 do not know that Juul always contains nicotine.
At a @UWHealth doctors are holding a press conference to stress the dangers of vaping. Soon we’ll hear from a 16 year old hospitalized from vaping related issues. @WISCTV_News3 pic.twitter.com/yFqiVpvAHi
— Madalyn O’Neill (@news3madalyn) October 3, 2019
The team of UW Health experts that cared for Logan also spoke Thursday about their concerns over teens vaping. Doctors encouraged parents to have conversations about the long-term risks linked to vaping.
“This is a public health crisis. It’s a public health crisis that needs to be addressed not only on a local level, but on a regional level, too,” Doctor Vivek Balasubramaniam, a pediatric pulmonologist for UW Health said.
While the CDC has found that about 80 percent of patients with acute vaping-related illness have used THC products, which are often unregulated, Balasubramaniam, said it’s still hard to determine what is causing the issues.
“Right now what we can encourage is any teen, young adults should not be using the products, either THC, CBD oil, or nicotine products, because they can cause lung injury and addiction,” he said.
At UW-Health, doctors have treated around 10 cases of teens or young adults sickened by vaping.
The photo below shows two sets of lungs — those on the left show the damage caused by vaping, while those on the right are healthy. Vaping triggers lung inflammation and causes lung tissue damage, which cause chest tightness, coughing, and other breathing problems.
“These people who are using these vaping products are addicted to the nicotine. Stopping it cold turkey is not the answer. They’ll relapse and go back,” Balasubramaniam said.
UW-Health hospitalist Brian Williams said the e-cigarette movement has created a new generation of children addicted to nicotine.
“We’ve had incredible gains over decades, people smoking less cigarettes. Unfortunately, e-cigarettes have completely wiped away those gains,” Williams said.
Balasubramaniam said there’s no question cigarettes are bad for you, but the vaping crisis is urgent.
“Cigarettes cause you to slowly die over time. These instances of vaping injuries are causing deaths now,” he said. “The attention being paid to it now is very important. This is a new product that’s unregulated on the market that people are using, and that’s the part that’s kind of scary.”
Balasubramaniam shared several Wisconsin-based resources to help people with nicotine addiction.
The Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) is one option for help. It uses telephone coaching to help people through the process of quitting.
Another resource is the “This is Quitting” text campaign. It is a texting program specifically designed to help teens quit smoking and vaping.
Teen Smoke Free through the federal government is a text and app program geared to help younger smokers and vapers stop.
Krahn also hopes sharing his experience will encourage people to stop vaping and smoking. He said since his hospitalization, two of his friends have quit.
“While quitting may seem really difficult, going through this is far worse,” Krahn said.
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