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Pennsylvania Teen Develops Severe Lung Damage with Areas That Look Like Solid Grease After Vaping

Anthony Mayo has been in the hospital’s intensive care unit since doctors learned that his lungs were almost completely congested on Sept. 15

A Pennsylvania teen is currently fighting for his life after his lungs became so damaged from vaping that they were almost entirely blocked with solidified vaping oils, which doctors compared to bacon grease.

Anthony Mayo, 19, was admitted into the intensive care unit of Millcreek Community Hospital in Erie, Pa. earlier this month following doctors’ discovery that both his lungs were heavily congested and his oxygen levels were quickly depleting.

Due to his severe condition, doctors have told Anthony’s parents, Tanya and Keith Mayo, that their son “currently has the lungs of a 70-year-old lifetime heavy smoker” and “a full recovery is uncertain.”

Now, as they hope for a miracle, Tanya is sharing photos of her son’s damaged lungs in a bid to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping and dissuade other parents and their children from using the e-cigarettes.

“This is what vaping looks like when your otherwise healthy 19-year-old son is admitted into the ICU,” Tanya wrote beside two photos of Anthony’s lungs — one which was taken a few days before he went into the ICU and the second after he underwent a CT scan in the ICU.

“Left lung is about 80% congested and right is about 50%, O2 level was 37! According to the doctor, this is showing areas that have essentially solidified like bacon grease,” she explained. “It shows the quick progression it made.”

The 19-year-old, who vaped for nearly two years, first made a visit to the hospital after struggling to breathe and feeling sick, according to The Daily Mail. There, he had an x-ray and was diagnosed with bronchitis, Tanya said.

However, when Anthony felt worse, he returned to the hospital a few days later and learned that the condition of his lungs had drastically worsened, prompting doctors to admit him into the ICU on Sept. 15.

“The pulmonary doctor said he had seen dead people with a higher O2 level!” Tanya wrote on Facebook. “Now we pray that the ‘good’ lung doesn’t develop a mucus plug which would cause him to not be able to breathe at all.”

In Keith’s Facebook post, he recalled what doctors told him so he could understand how his son’s lungs were being blocked by the flavored vaping oils, which he said Anthony would often use.

“I had to ask the doc how this happened,” Anthony’s father explained. “He said, ‘Imagine cooking bacon on the stove. It smells delicious. It tastes wonderful. When you’re done cooking, eventually you have to clean up. Well when you decide to clean up, there is white bacon grease all over. Places besides the stove.’”

“‘Well, this flavored oil in vapes is your bacon grease. The lungs are your kitchen,’” he continued. “‘Unfortunately, you can’t just go in and wipe everything down. It builds up until (like my son) it chokes off the airflow.’”

After being admitted to the ICU, Tanya said doctors have been monitoring his health, but cannot guarantee how he’ll respond to the lung damage.

“They’ve pumped him full of fluids and antibiotics as well as some turbocharged humidified O2 thing…and for now that’s all they can do,” she wrote. “[M]y son is not comfortable at all. If he worsens he will have to be life-flighted to Pittsburgh.”

“Only time will tell. He has the lungs of an elderly lifelong smoker right now…could be a year til he’s fully recovered, if they do heal,” Tanya added.

Reflecting on the health crisis, Keith said when Anthony first started vaping, he was initially wary, but was glad he was doing that instead of smoking cigarettes.

As he began to learn more about the e-cigarettes, their flavors and their marketing tactics, Keith admitted that he began to feel skeptical, but never assumed his son would be fighting for his life in the ICU.

“I am kicking myself for not asking more questions,” he wrote. “My son knows what he did and paying the consequences of his decisions.”

Anthony still remains in the ICU, but is “slowly making progress,” according to Tanya. At this time, it is unclear how long he’ll have to stay in the hospital and whether he’ll make a full recovery.

In the meantime, Tanya has created a Facebook birthday fundraiser to raise money “for the education of our children and young adults about the true danger associated with vapes.”

“I put what we are going through ‘out there’ out of concern because I don’t want to see others go through the pain that we are,” she wrote in a separate post. “Our son is suffering. He’s fighting. All we can do is wait.”

As of Sept. 20, there have been eight reported deaths due to a severe lung illness linked to vaping.

The Centers for Disease Control is currently investigating 530 confirmed and likely cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping. The federal agency said that they will continue to work with the Food and Drug Administration to determine the safety of e-cigarette use, though they previously urged Americans to stop vaping as they conduct their investigation.

Joelle Goldstein/People