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‘My cartridge-a-day vaping habit left me on life support’

Amanda Stelzer visited an urgent care centre in October 2019 as she was struggling to breathe, had severe lower back pain and felt like her heart was “beating out of her chest”

A woman has told how she is ‘happy to be alive’ after her vaping addiction left her on life support with a life-threatening lung condition.

Amanda Stelzer, 34, started vaping seven years ago when her friends all started doing it and the flavours gave her a “buzz”.

For seven years, Amanda was getting through two four-packs of liquid cartridges every week or the equivalent of more than one cartridge a day. Eventually, she ended up in hospital.

She visited an urgent care centre in October 2019 as she was struggling to breathe, had severe lower back pain and felt like her heart was “beating out of her chest”.

Despite extensive bloodwork and urine tests, doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong and sent her to hospital in an ambulance.

Within 24 hours of being there, Amanda was put on life support.

Amanda, a cashier from Delaware, Ohio, US, said: “I was crying because I was in so much pain. I was so scared.

“The last thing I remember is someone handing me a form and basically saying I needed to sign this if I wanted to live – that was the consent form to be put on life support.”

Amanda was on life support for about eight days, with doctors warning family she may remain that way for at least three months.

They were still not sure about the cause until her mother asked a nurse if this could have anything to do with her vaping, which prompted them to scan her chest.

Amanda was then diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening injury where the lungs cannot provide enough oxygen to the body.

Medical staff confirmed that her ARDS diagnosis was a direct result of vaping.

After two more weeks in the hospital, Amanda was discharged but she could not work, see friends and family or be around people using cigarettes and vaping for six months whilst her lungs healed.

ARDS is a serious condition and will affect her long-term – another illness could cause Amanda to end up back in hospital.

It was recommended that she use nicotine lozenges as her body was still healing, but also suffering from nicotine withdrawals.

Following her time in the hospital, Amanda suffered huge financial losses and mental health issues.

She said: “I was lucky that owned my car at the time and my insurance covered my treatment, but I still got into a lot of debt.

“It was depressing. I was happy to be alive but I was sad that I couldn’t work and I couldn’t be around family and friends without a mask.

“It was awkward having to disinfect everything and ask people not to vape or smoke around me anymore.

“I even lost two friends because they refused to quit.”

Amanda now sufferers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of this experience.

However, her health is “amazing” right now and she is in the best position she has ever been in – with lots of supportive friends and family members around her.

She has vowed to never touch a vape again and hopes that her experience will the wake-up call someone else needs.

Amanda said: “It seems harmless until it isn’t. You never know what can happen – I thought it was no big deal when I started.

“It is dangerous and I don’t want someone else to go through what I went through.

“People might not want to see it or hear it but if it helps just one person stop, I’ll be happy.”

Jessica Hehir/Independent
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