Maddie Nelson, 18, is speaking out about the dangers of vaping after she says her habit made her dangerously sick. Nelson spent several days in a medically-induced coma in early August after suffering from chest pain and nausea for weeks.
Doctors told Nelson and her family that her lungs were severely inflamed. She was diagnosed with eosinophilic pneumonia and the doctors told her that the condition was directly linked to vaping.
Nelson is telling her story as the number of severe lung illnesses increases nationwide. Health officials are concerned that vaping is at the root of the problem.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Maddie Nelson Said She Vaped Daily For Three Years
Maddie Nelson is a teenager from Nephi, Utah. Nephi is a small city located about 85 miles south of Salt Lake City.
She explained to KSTU-TV that she began vaping more than three years ago and it became a daily habit. Nelson said that a large number of her fellow classmates also vaped and that the common belief was that it was safe.
Nelson told the TV station that she “started out with zero nicotine vape juice, but eventually increased to 3 mg of nicotine.”
Nelson said she noticed headlines about the growing concerns about whether vaping was truly safe. But she said she never believed that she’d be one of the people to fall sick from it.
2. Nelson Began Feeling Sick Several Weeks Before She Was Hospitalized With a High Fever
Maddie Nelson’s three older siblings started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover medical costs after the teenager was hospitalized. They explained on the page that Nelson had been feeling unwell for several weeks prior to seeking treatment. They said Nelson complained of nausea, chest pain, and vomiting. She also said she had lost her appetite.
Nelson was finally taken to a hospital on July 27, 2019 after her fever spiked to 103 degrees. Her siblings said that Nelson was struggling to breathe. The nurses gave her oxygen, but it didn’t ease Nelson’s pain.
Doctors decided to move Nelson to Timpanogos Regional Hospital, where she was put into the ICU.
3. Maddie Nelson Was In a Medically Induced Coma For Three Days
Maddie Nelson explained to ABC affiliate KTVX-TV in Salt Lake City that she doesn’t remember the hours before doctors decided to place her in a medically-induced coma. “My mom told me that when I got here I was actually begging to be put into the medically induced coma. And I just said, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ That made me very sad to hear because I would never say that if I was in my own head.”
Nelson’s siblings explained on the GoFundMe page that their sister’s condition had deteriorated from “serious to potentially fatal.” The doctors told Nelson’s family that her lungs were filled with liquid and that it was the worst case the team had ever seen.
While Nelson was in the coma, doctors ran tests to determine what had caused her condition. They considered various possibilities including West Nile Virus to Lyme Disease.
Nelson was finally diagnosed with Acute Eosinophilic Pneumonia. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, the illness is “characterized by the rapid accumulation of eosinophils in the lungs. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell and are part of the immune system… The exact cause of the disorder is unknown in many patients, however, recent change in tobacco smoking habits and drug intake can trigger the disease.”
Nelson told KSTU-TV that doctors explained that she had “fat particles growing inside my lungs that were related to the glycerin in vape juice… When you inhale the moisture, it’s just creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow inside your lungs and for infection to start. And that is basically what happened.”
4. Nelson Says She Lost 30 Pounds in the Hospital & Described Incredible Muscle Weakness
Doctors treated the inflammation in Maddie Nelson’s lungs with a steroid. After three days in the coma, she was brought back to consciousness.
Nelson explained that the experience left her feeling very weak. She told KTVX-TV, “My muscles were so atrophied I had to learn to walk all over again, and I couldn’t eat while I was in the hospital. I lost 30 pounds while I was here.”
Nelson says she will never touch vaping again and that most of her friends have also stopped. She shared her story on Facebook after coming out of the coma and urged others to learn from her mistake.
She wrote in part, “I am not sharing my story to be your parent and tell you to stop, (even though yes, I would recommend.) I am sharing my story so you all are aware that there is something crazy in these pens that is not safe and almost cost me my life… To anyone who thinks vape is a safe alternative to smoking you are wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s a regular vape or special pen or juul, unfortunately I got to experience this first hand and it is not fun.”
5. Approximately 300 Severe Lung Disease Cases Nationwide Have Been Linked to Vaping
Nearly 300 people have been hospitalized across the country for symptoms of a severe lung illness, according to state data cited by NBC News. The patients’ cases have all been linked to vaping, though researchers have not yet determined whether vaping is the root cause.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control, Doctor Robert Redfield, released a statement on August 30 about the dangers associated with vaping. He reiterated that more information is needed. “Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations, which is why our ongoing investigation is critical.
Dr. Redfield cautioned people against using any form of e-cigarettes off the street and that users “should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.” He added that “regardless of the ongoing investigation, e-cigarette products should not be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products.” You can read the full statement here.