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I was suffocating’: Leavenworth teen hospitalized for lung injury caused by vaping

Almost daily you see stories on the national news about people rushed to the hospital because of vaping. Now it’s hit home as metro teens are being affected.

“It felt like I was suffocating,” Kathryn DeLoia said.

The 17-year-old walked out of the hospital Monday after waking up Saturday night unable to breathe.

“They had only seen it mostly in people that came in with vaping issues in their lungs, and they said my lungs looked decades older than what they should have been,” DeLoia said of the doctor’s news after a lung X-ray. “Me being 17, that is quite a shock.”

DeLoia had what she thought was an asthma attack. But when she tried using her nebulizer to stop it, instead of clearing her lungs, it just got worse.

The teen said she felt like she was dying.

DeLoia’s been smoking cigarettes since age 15. Six months ago, she switched to vaping as a way to quit smoking.

“Me thinking vaping was a good alternative because they do show it in the commercials and all of that other stuff,” she said.

But a local researcher said that’s not the case.

“There is very few data to show it is safe. In fact, there is more data that it is not,” said Dr. Matthias Salathe, a researcher at the University of Kansas Health System.

Salathe uses a vaping robot in his research. Vapor from electronic cigarettes is pulled over human and animal cells to test the effects vaping has on the lungs.

Salathe calls the results alarming, destruction similar to COPD.

“And what we see at least in our research the inability to clear mucus in the lungs in humans and animals is similar to cigarette smoke and that is a warming sign to me,” Salathe said.

“And I am concerned that people inhaling this are going to recognize in 10, 20, 30 years, we are going to recognize we have recreated the problem we have with cigarettes and that is very disappointing.”

DeLoia, a usually shy girl, is speaking out about her experience.

“If it changes at least a few kids minds and makes a difference, that would be amazing,” she said. “I just don`t want it to happen to other kids.”

Doctors say that if you are a smoker and would like to stop smoking, there are much safer smoking cessation programs than vaping.

Shannon OBrien/FOX4KC