Gratitude in crisis

Vaping caused condition similar to COVID in 18-year-old grandson

Over three weeks ago on a Monday morning, I brought my 18-year-old grandson in to the Adirondack Medical Center Saranac Lake emergency room. He had a fever of 102.4, sweats, dizziness, shortness of breath and weakness. His condition worsened by the hour, and I was not sure what was happening to him.

My grandson had an idea of what it was. He had been vaping for a year or more, and he thought it had something to do with the vaping. He was honest with the doctor about this.

As it happens, his symptoms were very much like COVID-19, so he had to be tested for it. Two of the COVID rapid tests came back negative. He had another one that was going to take days longer. My grandson was admitted into the intensive care unit on high-flow oxygen delivered through a nasal cannula. All precautions were being taken because they could still not rule out COVID-19 until further confirmation test. I can say everyone explained all procedures to him in a calm and understanding way to alleviate the anxiety he was experiencing. I am a registered nurse myself, but when it is a family member suffering, all support is so appreciated.

By Wednesday it was decided my grandson needed a higher level of care, so he was transported via ambulance to Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital. My grandson’s condition was deteriorating so fast there was discussion of having to intubate him (which is a tube in your throat, enabling a machine to breathe for you called a ventilator). This sent me into a panic. By Thursday morning the ICU pulmonologist decided he needed to be intubated because his respiratory status was only getting worse. My grandson was in critical condition and struggling to survive. Because COVID-19 was not ruled out completely, precautions continued. I cried quiet tears, seeing him alone in a room with caretakers all gowned up and attending to life-support machines. He had to be on high sedation so he would not pull out tubes. The staff at the CVPH ICU were outstanding. They communicated clearly with me and explained everything to me. I was comforted in knowing he was getting excellent care. We visited every day but could not be near him until his state COVID tests were finally negative, which took five days from the initial test.

My grandson was in critical condition for five days; it was a roller coaster of emotion for all. He is a very strong 18-year-old without any other health conditions. He was finally extubated (taken off the ventilator) eight days after being intubated and did very well; he is improving every day now. It was concluded that vaping was the cause. The ingredients in the vape cart were toxic to his lungs.

This is very serious, and our youth need to know how destructive to the lung tissue and health. Apparently this is happening more lately than we are aware in our North Country.

I would like to thank the Adirondack Health emergency room staff nurses and doctors in Lake Placid and AMC-Saranac Lake, as well as the ICU staff nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists for their professionalism and caring compassion for my grandson. I would like to thank the Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad for transport to CVPH. I would also like to thank the CVPH ICU staff nurses and pulmonologists and respiratory therapists for their excellent knowledge and care. Many friends and family and parishes had my grandson on their prayer list, and many people were praying for his recovery daily. I would like to thank each and every one in our community for their love and support and encouragement for this most difficult time in our lives.

My grandson is now home and recuperating and has healing to complete. He is swearing to never vape again and to teach others of the life-threatening hazards of this destructive habit.

(Kathryn Lamb lives in Lake Placid.)