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Vaping caused North Texas teen's lungs to fail, doctors say

Tryston Zohfeld is 17 years old and told WFAA that he's been vaping since the 8th grade, sometimes going through two to three vaping pods a week.

FORT WORTH, Texas — A 17-year-old Weatherford High School graduate is now recovering after doctors in Fort Worth determined excessive vaping caused the teen's lungs to fail, sparking an 18-day stay in the hospital. 

On July 26, Tryston Zohfeld was taken to Cook Children's in Fort Worth after an X-ray showed a blockage in his lungs.

The teen told WFAA that he had chills, an elevated heart rate, was tired, and that he had been vomiting. 

"I woke up just throwing up everywhere, and my heart was beating out of my chest going 100 miles an hour," Zohfeld said. 

RELATED: First Texas case of lung disease linked to vaping found in teen

Doctors at Cook Children's Hospital quickly admitted Zohfeld to the ICU and put him in a medically induced coma and on an oscillatory ventilator.

His father, Matt Zohfeld, said everything was difficult to understand. Few answers were surfacing, and his son's condition was getting worse. 

Credit: Zohfeld family
Zohfeld is surrounded by doctors as they work to treat him in the ICU.

"The day they intubated him was the worst day of my life," Matt Zohfeld said.

"We walked into this hospital very naive about what we were dealing with. We had no idea if he was going to make it through or not, and that was very difficult to come to terms with." 

Tryston Zohfeld is intubated after arriving at Cook Children's.

Dr. Karen Schultz, a specialist in pediatrics and pulmonology, said that doctors ran multiple tests for infections, diseases and even pneumonia, but that those tests didn't give any insight whatsoever. 

"None of them came back positive," Dr. Schultz said. 

A family member now living with Zohfeld in Granbury soon revealed something about the teen that his parents and medical professionals didn't know: he had been vaping since the 8th grade, sometimes two to three vape pods a week.  

RELATED: Texas Health Department investigating lung disease in adolescents using e-cigs

"The lightbulb started coming on," Matt Zohfeld said. "It started making sense why we weren't finding anything else." 

Dr. Schultz believes that the chemicals Zohfeld was inhaling caused his lungs to inflame so much that they could no longer exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.

"We eliminated everything that we could possibly think of that could have caused it," Schultz said. 

As many as 50 people in at least six states have experienced breathing illnesses that may be linked to e-cigarettes or other vaping products.

Last week, state officials announced Texas' first case

Wisconsin health officials said they've seen 15 confirmed cases, with another 15 illnesses under investigation. New York state officials are investigating 10, Illinois has seen at least six, and Minnesota doctors this week said they have four more. 

California and Indiana health officials have also been looking into reported illnesses.

Health officials have only been counting certain lung illnesses in which the person had vaped within three months. Most cases involve teenagers, but some adult cases have also been reported. No single vaping device or liquid is associated with the illnesses.

Texas State Health Officials are now encouraging health care providers to ask patients of any previous use of vaping products. 

A Second Chance

Zohfeld was in a coma for ten days, and when he finally woke up he said that he was horrified.  

"I just remember waking up having no muscle movement, and not being able to move. Just extremely terrified for my life I guess," Zohfeld said. 

"I looked extremely skinny, sickly, and it was a scary thought for anybody." 

Zohfeld lost more than 25 pounds and had to learn to walk again because he was in a hospital bed for so long. 

After an 18-day stay, he's now scheduled to do rehab two to three days a week. 

It's a new chapter that Zohfeld said he's grateful to start. 

"I was definitely given a second chance, and as soon as I woke up from that coma I knew what I wanted to do," Zohfeld. 

The teen told WFAA that he wants to become a firefighter and share what happened to him so that it doesn't happen to anyone else. 

He said that his friends have all thrown away their vape pens or e-cigs since his stint in the hospital. 

"This is really what could happen and it’s not something to look over," Zohfeld said. 

"They’re not as safe as you think."  

Zohfeld said that he's still concerned about the unknown from vaping, which involves, primarily, impacts to his longterm health and what complications could come. 

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