Tryston Zohfeld awoke on July 26 vomiting and with his heart racing. The 17-year-old was rushed to nearby Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas with symptoms that appeared akin to pneumonia. With his lungs failing, Zohfeld was placed in a medically-induced coma and on a breathing machine for 10 days, leaving medical staff at a loss as to the cause of his condition.
The cause? Unbeknownst to his family, Tryston Zohfeld had been vaping. For years.
“He’s a very sick, otherwise healthy-looking, child,” Dr. Karen Schultz, a pediatric pulmonologist at Cook Children’s Hospital told ABC’s Good Morning America.
Initially, medical tests didn’t resolve the mystery. X-rays showed Zohfeld’s lungs were completely blocked, yet there was no evidence of pneumonia.
Finally, a family member stepped forward with the vital information that the teen had been hiding a vaping habit from them. Since the eighth grade, he’d been smoking up to two to three vape pods a week.
To put this in context, Parentology recently reported, “The National Center for Health Research claims the nicotine content of JUULs is almost twice as high as other e-cigarettes. This makes the nicotine in a single JUUL pod equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes.”
There’s more than just nicotine to be worried about, as well. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a consensus report pointing to the dangers of chemicals found in vaping liquids, “E-cigarettes produce a number of dangerous chemicals including acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde. These aldehydes can cause lung disease, as well as cardiovascular (heart) disease.”
Doctors believe the chemicals in those pods caused Zohfeld’s lungs to inflame to the point where they could no longer exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 153 cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette use across 16 states between June 28 and August 20 of this year alone.
The US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) reported earlier this month they’ve found 127 cases neurological issues, including seizures, due to e-cigarette usage.
On August 6, Parentology reported on 14 teens and young adults hospitalized in Wisconsin and Illinois due to vaping. A statement made to CNN by Thomas Haupt, a respiratory disease epidemiologist with Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services almost foreshadows what happened to Zohfeld. The teens, he said, were “otherwise normally healthy, and were coming in with severe respiratory illnesses, and in some cases, they actually had to go to the intensive care unit and were placed on ventilators.”
In speaking to Parentology, Dr. Laura Neustater, a Fort Lauderdale-based pediatrician, said it’s a misconception that vaping is healthier than cigarettes. “This praise, unfortunately, makes the use of JUULs seem safe; it’s not. The user is still exposed to nicotine, which can lead to dependence and long-term health consequences.”
Tryston Zohfeld is now okay, but he paid a price. The boy spent 18 days in the hospital. During that time, he reportedly lost over 25 pounds and so much leg muscle he required physical therapy to relearn to walk normally.
Since being released, Zohfeld is now on a mission to get others to stop vaping, telling WFAA, “I was definitely given a second chance, and as soon as I woke up from that coma I knew what I wanted to do. This is really what could happen and it’s not something to look over. They’re not as safe as you think.”
Tryston Zohfeld Vaping: Sources
*With reporting by Julie Tolar
Good Morning America – Tryston Zohfeld vaping
Angle News: Texas Teen on Life Support for Lung Failure
WFAA 8 ABC
CNN: Teens Hospitalized for Vaping
USDA: FDA Report re: Seizures from e-cigarette use
CDC: Severe Pulmonary Disease Linked to Vaping
Dr. Laura Neustater, Fort Lauderdale
American Lung Association
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
National Center For Health Research
American Cancer Society