U.S. NEWS
11/13/2019 05:50 EST | Updated 11/13/2019 08:42 EST

Michigan Teen With Vaping-Related Disease Receives Double Lung Transplant

The 17-year-old boy is believed to be the first person to undergo such a surgery because of vaping-related illness.

After a 17-year-old boy in Michigan received a double lung transplant after suffering a near-fatal illness reportedly caused by vaping, doctors have issued an urgent warning to vapers everywhere: Please stop.

“We beg of you. We don’t want to be taking care of you next,” Dr. Nicholas Yeldo, a critical care physician who cared for the transplant patient, said during a Tuesday press conference.

The boy was hospitalized in September and treated for what doctors thought was pneumonia. When his condition worsened, he was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, where he was reportedly hooked up to an ECMO machine, which replaces the function of the heart and lungs for critically ill patients.

His doctors said they’d never before seen such scarred and inflamed lungs caused by vaping.

“What I saw in his lungs is like nothing I’ve seen before, and I’ve been doing lung transplants for 20 years,” said Dr. Hassan Nemeh, a thoracic surgeon at Henry Ford Health System, where the teen was later transferred for the transplant. 

“This is an evil I haven’t faced before,” Nemeh added, per The New York Times.

Doctors did not say what the teen had been vaping prior to his illness. But they made clear that the boy would have “faced certain death” had he not received the double lung transplant from an anonymous donor.

According to AP, the teen is believed to be the first person with a vaping-related illness to receive such a transplant. He underwent the surgery in October.

“We asked … doctors to share that the horrific life-threatening effects of vaping are very real,” the teen’s family, who declined to provide the boy’s name, said in a statement. “Our family could never have imagined being at the center of the largest adolescent public health crisis to face our country in decades.” 

Since his hospitalization, the teen has transformed from a “perfectly healthy” young athlete who enjoyed sailing and playing video games “to waking up intubated and with two new lungs, facing a long and painful recovery process,” his family said.

The median survival for patients who receive double lung transplants is about seven years post-surgery, NBC News said. But doctors expressed hope that the boy would “be alive and well for a long time,” given his youth.

The teen remains in the hospital, the Times reported. Doctors said he’s recovering well. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that at least 2,051 people in the U.S. had been sickened by EVALI, a vaping-related lung illness. At least 39 people have died from the disease.

CDC researchers said they’d identified a “very strong culprit” behind the epidemic. Vitamin E acetate, a chemical compound sometimes found in THC and other vaping products, have been linked to the illnesses of dozens of EVALI patients, the researchers said.

They stressed, however, that the outbreak could have other causes. 

“Vaping-related injuries are all too common these days. Our adolescents are faced with a crisis,” said Dr. Lisa Allenspach, the medical director of Henry Ford’s Lung Transplant Program, per AP. “We are just beginning to see the enormous health consequence jeopardizing the youth in our country ... these vaping products should not be used in any fashion.”