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Local teen warns of the dangers of vaping after landing in the hospital

A Hamilton Southeastern senior is speaking out about the dangers of vaping.

Ashley Stevens said her year-long habit nearly cost her her life.

Bedridden and hooked up to all sorts of equipment at Community North Hospital she said, “I’ve been through a lot and this is the worst pain every been thru and I don’t wish this on anyone.”

The 17-year-old said that while vaping last week she felt nauseous and suffered severe chest pains. Her doctor ordered an x-ray.

The otherwise active, healthy teenager had suffered a collapsed lung. She wound up at the hospital where a ruptured cyst on the lung was surgically removed.

“I got really lucky because there was chance if I’d not come that night (to the ER) I may not have made it,” Stevens said. “That’s what the emergency room doctor said.”

She blames vaping, which she began a year ago.

“I was involved with the wrong friend group and they had me try theirs,” Stevens said. “I was like…it’s fine. I won’t get addicted but I ended up getting addicted.”

She said she was vaping a pod a day or the equivalent of 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine. Ashley said she was using brand-name products, not the “black-market” ones.

Her mom didn’t know she was vaping, but her friend Courtney Huffman did and tried to get Ashley to stop.

“I kept saying after this pack, after this pack I’ll stop,” but she didn’t.

While Stevens’ doctors at Community North can’t say it was vaping alone that led to her condition, they said it would have exacerbated the problem.

Dr. George Rubeiz heads the hospital’s Pulmonary Critical Care Network.

“In her case, I cannot say for sure it was just vaping,” Rubeiz said. “There may be other reasons why the lung collapsed but for sure vaping did contribute. It may not be the primary cause but it would be a contributor.”

Huffman said it’s been eye-opening.

Sitting alongside her friend on the hospital bed, Huffman said, “It’s hard seeing her like this because she was healthy before this. It kind of shows you never think this stuff happens to you or your best friend or someone you know and then it does.”

Ashley is expected to fully recover and be home for Thanksgiving, breathing on her own.

After graduating in December, she will begin classes at IUPUI in January. She wants to become a full-time paramedic.

In the meantime her message on vaping: “It’s completely not worth it…I have a niece at home. She means everything to me and she deserves to have her aunt.”

Maty Milz/NBC