Vaping Victim

Two weeks ago today we loaded up a rented suburban with all the makings of a dorm room and set off for Colorado to take our oldest, Piper to college.
As we began our drive, Piper was coughing and mentioned that it hurt to take a deep breath. I didn’t think too much of it, but decided to keep an eye on it and figured we could pop into a CVS Minute Clinic on the road if I felt it warranted a check. On Saturday morning we decided we’d get her checked out when we actually got to Greeley that afternoon, since we didn’t have that much further to drive. It turned out to be the best decision we made, since there are no Minute Clinics in CO and we were forced to go to an urgent care that is linked in with the UC Hospital. We seriously thought this would be a quick visit, that she possibly had bronchitis and she’d be fixed up quick and moving into her dorm the next day… that isn’t at all what happened.
An urgent care visit showed what the doctor believed to be an “early pneumonia” (though the radiologist initially read her chest X-ray as clear and unremarkable.) However, things declined very very quickly and when she was sent to the ER the following morning a CT scan showed what the ER doctor called a diffuse pneumonia – not just contained to one lobe of the lungs- hers was all over. And in the meantime, they struggled to get a pulse ox reading in the 90s. It became clear we weren’t moving her in. In fact, we weren’t leaving the hospital at all that day. Or any day soon. She was admitted that afternoon and the decline continued. They put her on oxygen which we watched climb from 1 to 2 to 3 to 8 to 9 to 11 liters. At the worst point, she was getting 35 liters of oxygen and couldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom without all her alarms screaming because her oxygen saturation would dip to 83 or 84. The nurses and I had to wear masks to protect us from whatever virus or bacteria had begun to literally wreak havoc on her body. She cried to her nurse that it hurt too bad to take a breath. She was getting IV fluids, antibiotics, pain meds, anti-nausea meds and a diuretic to help clear fluid from her badly inflamed lungs. She continued to need more and more oxygen. The pain meds barely took the edge off. Tests were run, more meds were ordered, she was eventually transferred to a room on the ICU floor in case her oxygen needs became even more severe.

How does a healthy 18 year old become a VERY sick patient whose oxygen needs just keep increasing?

VAPING. That’s how.

She became Colorado’s first confirmed case of what was called a “sudden and severe lung illness due to vaping.”

Here’s where the choice became tough. I could feel like a failure. I could choose to wear the poor choices my teenager has made like a lead weight and keep silent. Because this must reflect on me- somehow this means I’m not a good mom.
That’s BS.
I’m going to call that narrative out for what it is- a LIE from the devil.

I am a damn good mom. I am “all up in my teenagers’ business.” I ask the questions, I stay current on the dangers out there. But PARENTS- your kids will make bad choices. It will happen. Mine had been caught before, I confiscated, I grounded, I forced bedroom doors to stay open. I snooped. I sniffed. And still, this happened.
And I’m not going to keep silent. Because God didn’t give me a big mouth for nothing and you always have the opportunity to turn your MESS into your MESSAGE. Because we are failing our kids here. They are being wooed by an industry that has zero regard for their safety and health and the departments that are designed to protect them ARE. NOT. DOING. IT.
Nobody is going to protect them if we don’t.

These devices are marketed to our children. They are designed to look like USB flash drives or regular pens. Some even look like Apple Watches. Tiny little pods you can pop on, carts that contain THC, cute little refill bottles of gummy bear or blue raspberry liquid.
The first e-cigarette hit the American market in 2007 and until 2016 ANY E-cig or ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery system) could freely enter the market without any pre-market approval. Let’s lure them in with sweet flavors and get them hooked on nicotine. And throw some weed in there too. But be super careful because the sophomore girl who gave you that in the hallway doesn’t actually know what it is or where it came from.

Piper was released from the hospital a week ago after a one week stay. She has just weaned off a steroid that we believe saved her life. Which was ordered by a doctor who I truly believe to be an angel. He asked the right questions, paid attention to the answers and spent hours doing research – calling other doctors and hospitals to compare cases. She’s no longer on oxygen. She’s expected to make a full recovery. She’s also 100% owning her choices and has asked me to share her story so that other teenagers can hopefully make other choices. Her lung doctor told us, he fears that had we waited one more day she’d have been unresponsive on a ventilator. And while i truly believe that God held us on this journey and I’m sending up prayers of gratitude for this outcome- thoughts and prayers alone just aren’t going to cut it in this case.

What I can do, and I’d love for you to join me in is DEMANDING CHANGE.

All e-cig makers must submit apps to the FDA in the next 10 months but given the fact that e-cig or vaping use has risen 78% in high schoolers and 48% in middle schoolers we can’t afford to wait. If our agencies aren’t going to protect our kids RIGHT. NOW. then we need to educate our kids and ourselves on the dangers of vaping. And it’s not ONLY “illegal THC carts off the streets” as you may read in various places. Companies are not required to disclose their ingredients and chemicals that are deemed as “generally safe to eat” are being inhaled. Along with heavy metals and other known irritants. It’s easy for them to have endless options to vape. Whether they know what’s in them or not.

Share Piper’s story. Do your research.
Talk to your kids. Talk to their friends. Talk until you’re out of breath, or they just might be.