One Utah man is urging others not to vape as the Utah Department of Health reported a 50% increase in people diagnosed with vaping-related lung illnesses in one week.
Health officials reported 71 cases of vaping-related lung disease in Utah Monday, up from 47 last week. An additional 10 cases are being investigated.
Officials said vaping THC cartridges is likely the driver of the outbreak and recommended people do not vape THC cartridges.
Maarius Dennis, 39, echoed their warning.
Dennis said every breath of life is now a struggle.
He’s hooked up to an oxygen machine 24/7 in his Provo home and every hour, he has to breathe into a device that measures his lung capacity. The goal is to try and get more air into his lungs.
“It burns every time I do it,” he said.
According to doctors, Dennis was in bad shape because of vaping — something he said he has been doing now for about five years.
“I quit smoking a long, long time ago and I decided to try this and it seems like a huge, huge mistake,” Dennis said. “It totally seemed safe at the time.”
Since July, Dennis said he has spent the majority of his days in the hospital, having been admitted three times for three major surgeries to repair both lungs that ended up collapsing.
In some cases, he said the pain was almost too much to handle in the hospital.
“I was told I asked to die on a number of occasions,” Dennis said. “Just let me die because it was so unbearable at the time.”
After being released from the hospital the first time he was told to never vape again — but he couldn’t resist.
“I tried to call their bluff,” Dennis said. “I took one puff on my mod and started coughing I didn’t even get a whole puff on it before I started hacking my lungs out. That turned out to be the trigger for the first lung collapse.”
He was rushed back to the hospital. “I feel stupid, I feel dumb why would I have done that,” he said.
That’s why he said he has a very strong message for anyone vaping or thinking about vaping.
“Vaping is not safe,” he said. “Think about what you’re doing — don’t do it.”
Dan Rascon/KSL TV