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Maryland teen links hospitalization and near-death experience to vaping habits

From Instagram via @clairechunggg

A few weeks ago, Claire Chung was afraid that if she went to sleep, she wouldn’t wake up. 

The 19-year old was admitted to the ER on Christmas morning after she began throwing up and developed a 104 degree fever that wouldn’t go away. A CT scan revealed “extremely disturbing” results.

“Healthy lungs on a scan should be black,” Chung wrote on Instagram. “My 19 year old lungs were completely hazy and white in the scans, entirely covering both lungs.” 

Chung said it was determined her lung tissue was “completely destroyed” from using Juuls, vapes and oil cartridges. 

Photos demonstrating the difference between a normal chest CT scan (top) and Chung’s scan (bottom). From Instagram via @clairechunggg

On Instagram, Chung revealed that she had not previously experienced symptoms of respiratory issues. She added that if the timing had been off by just a couple weeks, she would not have had access to healthcare and would likely have died within a month. 

“Please take it from personal experience that this is NOT worth it (for) something as stupid as a nicotine device,” she wrote, urging her followers to share her story with people who vape. 

NBC Washington reports that Chung began vaping a few years ago, against the wishes of her parents. What she started out only doing once in a while became a daily habit.  

She told NBC Washington that when her parents found one of her devices, they would take it, but she would immediately go buy another one. She said that in the hospital, she thought of her parents and how she’d brought this situation upon herself despite their warnings.

Meanwhile, Chung’s story has garnered hundreds of thousands of likes on social media. With the attention, however, came critics who argued that different vaping products have different effects and felt Chung was not being transparent enough about the products used or the intensity and frequency of her habits.  

NBC Washington reports that Chung is doing better now, although it’s still too early to tell if her lungs will have permanent scars. 

In response, Chung posted a statement on Instagram, noting that she did not mean to go after a specific product or device or force people to quit by insinuating this would definitely happen to them.  

“Me or any medical professionals that were involved in my case do not have a possible way to definitively tell what product exactly caused the damage in my lungs, which is why I simply stated all the products I used and explained exactly what happened and how it made me feel,” she said in the statement. 

As of Jan. 14, 2020, over 2,600 hospitalized deaths or cases of e-cigarette product use-associated lung injury have been reported to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

USA Today reports that CDC investigation into vaping products began with no distinction between those that contained nicotine and those that contained marijuana-based THC. According to USA Today, the CDC now emphasizes the risks of products containing THC, including both legal products and black market and street-sold cartridges.  

While investigation continues, however, the CDC recommends that the best way for people to ensure they are not at risk is to refrain from the use of all vaping products.

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