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Fort Mill teen suffers severe lung illness reportedly linked to vaping

Logan Dillard starting vaping when he was 14 years old. Now 17, he’s recovering after spending days in the hospital with an illness reportedly linked to his vaping device.

Dillard said he caught a cold earlier this week but still continued to vape. All of a sudden, he was gasping for air.

“I honestly thought I was going to die,” Dillard recalled.

Doctors at an area urgent care said they couldn’t help him and called an ambulance to Levine Children’s Hospital. He spent five days there, a few of those in the PICU.

“They were telling me they might need to intubate me and put me on a CPAP machine,” Dillard said. “It was really scary.”

Dillard’s mom, Stephanie Walters, said doctors decided the Vitamin E inside his vaping cartridge was the cause of his illness. She said it turned into gel inside his lungs, blocking his airways.

“Rather than the lungs being curved in the bottom like normal lungs, they’d flattened out,” Walters explained.

Experts at Atrium Health said in a panel Monday morning they don’t know what’s causing the spike in vaping-related sickness.

“I don’t know, and no one exactly knows,” said Dr. Michael Beuhler, medical director of the North Carolina Poison Control. “There have been articles saying it’s this or that, and there’s a lot of uncertainty to it. There’s a signal that potentially something is being added to it because everyone isn’t getting the disease.”

However, that’s not a given. Dr. Jaspal Singh, a pulmonologist at Atrium Health, said he’s seen patients who already have sensitivities to vaping and don’t realize it.

“What’s hard is this gets confused, and what we’re seeing is a lot of patients who have developed lung injury have had repeated episodes of bronchitis or asthma and have not realized it might be related to vaping usage,” Singh said.

The experts said they’re seeing a lot of teenagers using vaping devices, and they aren’t surprised. They believe companies are specifically marketing themselves to children.

“When you look at advertising for vaping devices, they are geared toward children, with mango flavor, bubble gum flavor, fruit punch,” Dr. Shamieka Dixon explained. “They know exactly what they’re doing, and they’re specifically targeting children. When you start using vaping devices, you have a three times greater chance of using traditional tobacco devices, and two times likely greater-hood of using marijuana. It’s intentional.”

Singh cautioned people to stop vaping until more research can be done.

“I think we’re still learning. As for now, I think all of us have learned or feel vaping for now, we really recommend avoidance at all costs,” he said.

Dillard said he’s had asthma since childhood and never thought that the symptoms he was experiencing and his vaping could be linked. Now, he’s thrown his vaping device away and said he just wants people to hear his story, so they won’t have to go through the same thing.

“I would stop while you can and not wait until it’s too late. Something like that can happen in a matter of seconds and you don’t even know it. One day you’re here, one day you’re not,” Dillard said.

Susanna Black/WSOCTV