A local teenager has been found to have what could be a vaping-related lung injury.
But unlike other cases, even though he had damage, he didn’t have symptoms.
The injury was found by accident. And this begs the question: are many more people walking around with lung damage and just not know it yet?
Steristrips and soreness now mark the spot where 18-year-old Joey Windsor of Newark, Delaware recently had a lung biopsy. It was not because he was coughing or had shortness of breath, but due to a car accident.
During a CT scan of his back, doctors noticed damage in his lungs.
A biopsy was performed at Nemours duPont Hospital by pediatric surgeon Doctor Kirk Reichard.
“We don’t do lung biopsies terribly often in young people, but we do for various reasons and I’ve never seen anything like this in a kid, neither has our pathologist,” Dr. Reichard said.
Reichard can’t say definitely the injury is due to vaping but can’t rule it out either.
“It could be, clearly at some point he inhaled some toxins that were inflaming his lung and those toxins had fat or lipid in them,” he said.
Fat or lipid deposits have also been reported in many of the now nearly 2,000 people with severe lung illnesses related to vaping.
Joey says he’s been vaping for about two years and didn’t think much of it.
“I didn’t really think of anything. I just thought everyone was doing it so it was cool,” Joey said.
Dr. Cheryl Bettigole of the Philadelphia Health Department says that’s also when they started to see a real spike in kids using e-cigarettes. Many products at the time had added a buffer, allowing for higher nicotine concentration.
“Instead at that high concentration making the teen cough and wheeze, it’s buffered so they are able to tolerate that very high nicotine level,” said Bettigole.
And that is what gets people hooked fast.
She and many other experts are concerned. While we don’t know the long-term effects of people who end up in the ICU but recover, we also don’t know what happens to people like Joey who have vaped, but don’t currently have any symptoms.
Joey’s mother, Sandy Windsor, is nervous about what could happen in the future.
“I’m very scared because there’s no trials. There’s no past studies, so Joey will be the trial,” she said.
Joey tries not to worry about the future.
But he’s telling his friends, “Stop vaping. You’ll end up like me.”
And that is the advice: to stop vaping.
If you have vaped for a significant amount of time or used products with THC or ones bought off the street, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about your risks or if you need help breaking the habit.