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Fort Atkinson teen talks about near-death experience with vaping

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.

Juul is a company that makes electronic cigarettes. Juul e-cigarettes has 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 a local 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.”

Krahn was sent to American Family Children’s Hospital where doctors began treating him for chemical pneumonia caused by vaping.

“I have suffered lifelong 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 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 around two-thirds of Juul users between the ages of 15 and 24 do not know that Juul always contains nicotine.

The team of UW Health experts who cared for Logan also spoke about the concerns of teens vaping Thursday. 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.

At UW-Health, doctors have treated around 10 cases of teens or young adults sickened by vaping.

In Wisconsin, there have been more than 30 confirmed cases of hospitalization from severe lung disease. Nationwide, there have been hundreds of cases.

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.

Public Health Madison & Dane County issued a warning encouraging people to quit vaping immediately.

“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.

He 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.

Stephanie Fryer/Fox47