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November 12, 2019

Detroit doctors perform first double-lung transplant on patient with vaping injury

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Vaping Double Lung Transplant Detroit Robina Weermeijer/

Doctors at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit believe they have performed the first double-lung transplant on a patient with a vaping-related injury.

A patient who suffered irreparable lung damage from vaping has received a double-lung transplant at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. 

The double-lung transplant is believed to be the first given to a victim of a vaping-related illness. The  health system announced the news on Monday, according to the Detroit Free Press

RELATED STORY: Vitamin E acetate may have caused some vaping illnesses, CDC says

The patient, a 17-year-old boy from Michigan, has a very good prognosis, according to hospital officials. But his recovery will be both long and intense.

"This teenager faced imminent death had he not received a lung transplant," Dr. Hassan Nemeh, one of three surgeons who performed the transplant, said in a statement. "This is a preventable tragedy. And we have so much respect for this family for allowing us to share their pain to prevent the same from happening to others. The damage that these vapes do to people's lungs is irreversible. Please think of that – and tell your children to think of that."

The patient and his family did not appear on Tuesday at a press conference detailing his case. But he allowed his story to be told in hopes of serving as a warning to others. 

The patient's family issued a statement emphasizing that "the horrific life-threatening effects of vaping are very real!" Here's more from their statement:

"Within a very short period of time, our lives have been forever changed. He has gone from the typical life of a perfectly healthy 16-year-old athlete – attending high school, hanging out with friends, sailing and playing video games – to waking up intubated and with two new lungs, facing a long and painful recovery process as he struggles to regain his strength and mobility, which has been severely impacted."

The teenager was admitted to St. John Hospital in Detroit on Sept. 5 with pneumonia-like symptoms. He eventually was intubated there as symptoms worsened. He was transferred on Sept. 17 to Children's Hospital of Michigan, where he was placed on a life-saving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) device. 

But the patient continued to deteriorate and was transferred to Henry Ford Hospital on Oct. 3 in hopes of receiving a lung transplant. Because he was so close to death, the teenager shot to the top of the transplant waiting list. He received his transplant on Oct. 15. 

"We are forever grateful to the organ donor and their compassionate family for making the selfless decision to donate the gift of life," the family wrote in their statement. 

There have been 2,051 confirmed and probable lung injury cases related to e-cigarettes and vaping, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest count. There have been 39 deaths confirmed in 24 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

Biologic evidence suggests vitamin E acetate may have caused at least some of the lung illnesses, though CDC officials stress that there could be multiple causes. 

Vitamin E acetate is found in various foods, dietary supplements and cosmetic products. It typically is not harmful when ingested or applied topically to the skin, officials said. But it may interfere with normal lung function when inhaled. 

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