Texas teen Tryston Zohfeld was fighting to stay alive when his seemingly healthy and athletic lungs suddenly failed on July 26.
“I woke up just throwing up everywhere, and my heart was beating out of my chest going 100 miles an hour,” Zohfeld told ABC affiliate WFAA.
His family rushed him to the Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, where doctors admitted him to the ICU and put him in a medically induced coma as his condition rapidly deteriorated. There he was hooked up to an oscillatory ventilator, which kept him alive for 10 days.
“The day they intubated him was the worst day of my life,” Matt Zohfeld, Tryston’s father, told the outlet. “We walked into this hospital very naive about what we were dealing with.”
“We had no idea if he was going to make it through or not,” his father added. “That was very difficult to come to terms with.”
X-rays of his lungs showed a complete blockage. Doctors ran multiple tests for a number of diseases, even pneumonia, but everything came back negative.
“We eliminated everything that we could possibly think of that could have caused it,” Dr. Karen Schultz, a specialist in pediatrics and pulmonology, told WFAA.
It wasn’t until another family member revealed that Tryston had been regularly vaping since he was in 8th grade, a habit his parents reportedly didn’t know about, that doctors came to a possible diagnosis.
“The lightbulb started coming on,” his father recalled. “It started making sense why we weren’t finding anything else.”
Shultz said she believes the chemicals Tryston was inhaling from the vape pen caused his lungs to inflame to a point where they couldn’t exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide anymore. She added that his habit had done enough damage to scar his lungs, according to CBS.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that they are investigating 153 cases of severe lung disease that they think may be linked to vaping. Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed they were investigating 127 cases of seizures and other “neurological symptoms” for a potential link to the e-cigarettes.
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According to the CDC, these cases are across 16 states and have been reported between June 28 and August 20, 2019. No specific product has been linked to the illnesses reported in the cases yet, but they are working with the FDA in their investigation.
Tryston was released from the hospital after an 18-day stay and told WFAA that he and all of his friends have thrown out their vape pens and e-cigarettes.
“I was definitely given a second chance, and as soon as I woke up from that coma I knew what I wanted to do,” he explained. “This is really what could happen and it’s not something to look over. They’re not as safe as you think.”
His family has started a GoFundMe page to help with the costs of his hospital stay, and with his upcoming rehabilitation program.