A Manhattan man has been identified Wednesday as the city’s second confirmed vaping-related death — and his devastated family hopes their loss will help to warn young people about the dangers of vaping.
Jonathan Sosa, 34, died at Bellevue Hospital Nov. 9, roughly two weeks after he was hospitalized for breathing difficulties.
An autopsy determined vaping played a role in his demise, even though he suffered from obesity with obstructive sleep apnea and diabetes.
“(Sosa’s) pre-existing medical problems and complicated hospital course made it unclear the full extent to which vaping may have contributed, making the manner of death undetermined,” Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson said. “However, based on our thorough investigation and medical record review, we have determined the death to be vaping-related.”
Sosa, who was 330 pounds and 5-foot-11, smoked heavily, and took up vaping because he thought it would help him quit, his mother and sister said.
He checked himself into the emergency room at Metropolitan Hospital at the end of October, and his condition worsened.
“They intubated him so he couldn’t tell us what was wrong. Next thing, he was in the ICU, and he caught pneumonia,” his sister said. “We had to figure it out on our own because he couldn’t talk and the doctors didn’t know. They kept taking x-rays and CAT scans. They couldn’t figure out how his lungs got worse and worse.”
When his family came home, they found his vaping cartridges, and his mother didn’t even know what they were.
“We want people to know, the kids especially, that the doctors don’t know how to treat you with this illness from vaping,” Hernandez said.
Sosa worked as a security guard for five years, and bouncer at clubs, which is where he picked up vaping as an alternative to smoking, his sister said.
His family didn’t know about his other health conditions, only that he had an enlarged heart, they said.
“I just wish I had my son back. I’ve been dealing with the loss of my baby for months now,” said his mother Angela Valentin, 56.
Sosa had two brothers and three sisters. “We were like the Brady Bunch, but now it’s broken up,” she said. “I loved my son so much. It broke me into pieces. It killed me. It was so unexpected. He was so young.”
Doctors transferred Sosa to Bellevue on Nov. 8. Less than 24 hours later, he was dead, his family by his side.
“We went in and he had a 106 (degree) fever. They said that he had the fever because of the infection,” his sister said. “We were there 30 minutes and his heart stopped. They called a code blue and told us to go to the waiting room, but we wouldn’t budge.”
She added, “We watched him pass away right in front of our eyes.”
On Oct. 4, beloved Bronx Catholic high school student Denis Byrne Jr. became the first person in the state to die from to a vaping-related illness. Byrne, 17, died at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.
Two more people — a city woman in her 20s and an upstate woman in her 50s — have succumbed to vaping-related deaths since November.
As of Feb. 18, the federal Centers for Disease Control have confirmed 68 vaping-related deaths across the country, and more than 2,800 people hospitalized.
Kerry Burke & John Annese/NY Daily News