The first vape user to receive a double-lung transplant in the US was identified Tuesday as a 17-year-old former high-school athlete — whose own organs were so badly damaged that their condition shocked his doctors.
“What I saw in his lungs was something that I’ve never seen before, and I’ve been doing lung transplants for over 20 years,” said Dr. Hassan Nemeh at a press conference at the Henry Ford System hospital in Detroit, Michigan.
“This is an evil that I haven’t faced before,” the surgeon said.
Nemeh was among the team of doctors at Henry Ford who worked on the unidentified 17-year-old in a life-saving six-hour operation Oct. 15. They said the teen would have died in “a matter of days” from vaping-induced damage if not for the surgery.
A nationwide vaping epidemic has killed 39 people to date, while leaving more than 2,000 others suffering from lung disease.
The ailing teen was first hospitalized Sept. 6 at Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit with what appeared to be pneumonia. He was later moved to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan after his condition worsened and was hooked up to a life-support device called an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, or ECMO.
When the patient didn’t improve, doctors reached out to Henry Ford specialists for help Oct. 1.
The Henry Ford team put a portable ECMO unit into the trunk of one of their cars and drove about 10 miles to the children’s hospital. There, the teen was hooked up to the portable ECMO and rushed back to Henry Ford by ambulance and underwent the surgery.
The median life expectancy for such transplant patients is typically seven years, but the teen’s doctors hope his age and previous strength will keep him around longer.
Doctors at Henry Ford read a statement from his family.
“If this press announcement saves just one person, prevents others from vaping or inspires someone addicted to take steps to quit, it is surely a step in the right direction,” the statement said.
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