MedStar Health Pulmonologist Treats Vaping Patient


– [News Anchor] It’s right here on WJZ. – 49, that’s how many people are suffering from severe lung illnesses
linked to vaping in our state. The number of cases went
up by three this week. It’s still unclear exactly what’s causing people to get sick. – And, as those numbers
show, the vaping crisis continues to grow here in Maryland. And in an exclusive interview, one local man tells WJZ he thought he was making a safer choice, but his decision, it changed his life forever. Nicole Baker shares his
heart-breaking story, and his warning for others. – [Nicole] The vaping crisis
is sweeping the country, killing at least 40 people
and sickening thousands in nearly every state, including Maryland. The number of people in our state with vaping-related illnesses
is rapidly increasing with nearly 50 cases. – [J.R.] I can’t take a big deep breath when I first wake up. All I feel is tearing in my lungs. – [Nicole] J.R. is one of
the people here in Maryland whose life is now forever
changed by vaping. – [J.R.] I was very active,
I used to play hockey. I was very athletic. I liked working on cars. It sucks, it ruined my life. – [Nicole] In an exclusive interview he tells WJZ he almost died after using a bad tank with his vape pen. – [J.R.] I really felt
like I was going to die. – [Nicole] J.R., who asked
us to conceal his identity, loves the outdoors. He was an avid swimmer and loved running around with his dog. Well, that’s all changed now since his near-death experience, one that came after
multiple severe symptoms including constant vomiting, a high fever, and his body literally shutting down. After several doctor’s visits,
he ended up in the ICU. – [J.R.] The first night here
was probably the worst night of probably my life I ever felt. – What was the scariest moment for you? – [J.R.] Not being able to breathe. I could’ve had my last breath. – [Nicole] It’s an unfortunate reality that J.R. is not alone. It’s even prompting doctors
to issue an urgent warning. – I would strongly recommend that they stop vaping and smoking right away. – [Nicole] Dr. George Pyrgos specializes in lung disease at
MedStar Franklin Square. He’s seen at least
three other ICU patients for vaping-related illnesses. – We don’t completely understand
how this injury happens. We don’t really exactly
know how to treat it. – [Nicole] Just last week,
a breakthrough at the CDC. After collecting 29 samples of lung fluid from patients with a
vaping-related illness, doctors found a common toxin of concern. Vitamin E Acetate is
often used as a thickener in e-fluids, especially
on the black market, and with THC. – It’s really a big unknown. – [Nicole] But what is
known is how serious these injuries are. Dr. Pyrgos tells WJZ there’s
an alarming similarity between the lung damage in his patients and those of 9/11 first responders. – 10 years out, they still had problems with their breathing,
their respiratory symptom, asthma-like symptoms,
and other health effects. So any inhalation in the lung that causes a chemical
injury can certainly have a lot of long-term side effects. – [Nicole] Those long-term effects may not show up for years, but for J.R., the life he knew of independence is already gone. Do you think you’ll ever vape again? – [J.R.] I will never touch it again. It’s not worth your
life, it’s that simple. – As doctors race to learn
more about how to help people suffering from lung
illnesses, they warn everyone to avoid any vaping
product that contains THC.

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