In a press conference on Tuesday, doctors from the Henry Ford Hospital told reporters they performed the life-saving surgery on Oct. 15 to treat the teen’s vaping-related illness.
“This teenager faced imminent death had he not received a lung transplant,” Dr. Hassan Nemeh, surgical director at Henry Ford Hospital who performed the transplant alongside other surgeons, 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.”
A brief statement made Monday by the Henry Ford Hospital said the patient has asked for privacy at this time but has asked his medical team to share photographs and an update to warn others about the harms of vaping.
“It would be nice if it’s the last — if the epidemic of acute lung injury can be brought under control,” Dr. David Christiani, a professor of medicine at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said to the Associated Press.
Christiani, who was not involved in the medical procedure, said he’s not sure if the number of double lung transplants due to vaping illnesses will increase. He said factors include the availability of donor lungs and the chronic effects of illnesses from vaping that could lead to other types of conditions.
As of November, more than 2,000 cases of vaping-related lung injury have been reported in the U.S., and at least 39 people have died, according to the government’s health agency.
The agency says more deaths are under investigation.
Health Canada said there are currently seven confirmed or probable cases of severe lung illness related to vaping as of November. These cases include two in Quebec, two in New Brunswick and three in British Columbia.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced a breakthrough into the cause of a vaping illness outbreak. The agency called the chemical compound vitamin E acetate a “very strong culprit” after finding it in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients.
Vitamin E acetate was previously found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many who got sick and only recently has been used as a vaping fluid thickener.
Health experts are concerned, as many youths and teens have tried vaping or do currently vape.
According to a recent Health Canada survey, nearly one in four students in grades 7 to 12 have tried electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.
What’s more, a 2017 study found that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are at risk of graduating to tobacco smoking.
Dr. David Hammond, a professor of public health at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, previously told Global News that the long-term health effects of vaping are still not fully known.
Vaping may be safer than smoking cigarettes he said, but it still poses potential harm.
“Those do take a decade or two before they appear, just as the case for smoking… it’s not a benign activity.”
— With files from the Associated Press