My vaping nightmare: Woman, 35, has deadly lung disease after using e-cigarettes for five months

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My vaping nightmare: Woman, 35, has deadly lung disease after using e-cigarettes for five months

A woman who vaped for less than a year is now battling a deadly lung disease at just 35 years old. Lucy Turchin, 35, from Washington State, has d

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A woman who vaped for less than a year is now battling a deadly lung disease at just 35 years old. 

Lucy Turchin, 35, from Washington State, has dropped out of her masters degree and cancelled her wedding because her illness has become so severe she requires hospital treatment every week.

She now rarely goes outside due to the debilitating pain from hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which causes severe inflammation in the lung tissue.

The former student has spent $30,000US ($45,000AUD) on treatments to get better and fears for the worst.

‘I hardly ever leave my house because of the risks of exposure to smoke and vape fumes while out in public,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

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Lucy Turchin, 35, from Washington State, vaped for five months before she noticed an effect on her lungs. She's now been forced to drop out of her master degree and cancel her wedding after being diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Lucy Turchin, 35, from Washington State, vaped for five months before she noticed an effect on her lungs. She's now been forced to drop out of her master degree and cancel her wedding after being diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Lucy Turchin, 35, from Washington State, vaped for five months before she noticed an effect on her lungs. She’s now been forced to drop out of her master degree and cancel her wedding after being diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis 

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis causes severe inflammation in the lung tissue. 'I would do anything to go back in time and have made a different choice. I cry a lot and wonder why this happened to me,' Lucy says

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis causes severe inflammation in the lung tissue. 'I would do anything to go back in time and have made a different choice. I cry a lot and wonder why this happened to me,' Lucy says

 Hypersensitivity pneumonitis causes severe inflammation in the lung tissue. ‘I would do anything to go back in time and have made a different choice. I cry a lot and wonder why this happened to me,’ Lucy says 

‘This is all terrifying to me. I am traumatised and have a lot of fear. 

‘I would do anything to go back in time and have made a different choice. I cry a lot and wonder why this happened to me.

‘The world seemed to be at my fingertips before this.’

To help her give up cigarettes, Lucy started vaping aged 31,  but after just five months of tobacco and cannabis e-cigarettes she noticed an effect on her lungs.

She now struggles to catch her breath has a ‘chemical burn feeling’ in her lungs and constantly feels like her lungs are swollen.

‘It’s feels like there is a cloud inside them.’ 

Doctors have ruled out cigarettes as a cause of her hypersensitivity as the problems with her lungs started soon after she started vaping.

She saw a slight improvement when she stopped vaping, but her pain flared up again when she took up the habit seven months later.

At first, she was misdiagnosed with asthma and anxiety as her X-rays were clear and her oxygen levels were normal. 

Doctors have ruled out cigarettes as a cause of her hypersensitivity as the problems with her lungs started soon after she started vaping

Doctors have ruled out cigarettes as a cause of her hypersensitivity as the problems with her lungs started soon after she started vaping

Doctors have ruled out cigarettes as a cause of her hypersensitivity as the problems with her lungs started soon after she started vaping

Lucy does ice baths every day to help with her pain and sensitivity

Lucy does ice baths every day to help with her pain and sensitivity

Lucy does ice baths every day to help with her pain and sensitivity 

But after three years of pain being dismissed by doctors she was hospitalised and given a high resolution CT scan.  

The scan showed bronchial thickening, which means the passages to her lungs were getting smaller as well as white spots on her lungs and scar tissue.

Things quickly became worse and Lucy had to cancel her wedding and drop out of university. 

‘My life is dedicated to healing. Nothing else matters. I live in constant pain and depression,’ she said.

WHAT IS HYPERSENSITIVITY PNEUMONITIS?

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) happens if your lungs develop an immune response – hypersensitivity – to something you breathe in which results in inflammation of the lung tissue – pneumonitis. 

It sees the air sacs and airways in the lungs become severely inflamed.

The condition is triggered by an allergic reaction to inhaled dust, fungus, moulds or chemicals.

It’s exact prevalence is unknown, but experts estimate it plagues 1 per cent of farmers. 

This is why it has earned the nickname farmer’s lung. 

This is caused by breathing in mould that grows on hay, straw and grain.

It has also been dubbed is bird fancier’s lung, caused by breathing in particles from feathers or bird droppings. 

Many other substances can cause similar disease patterns. In many cases it can be very difficult to find the exact cause.

The symptoms include cough, shortness of breath and sometimes fever and joint pains.  

You may need to take anti-inflammatory medication called steroids for a few weeks or months. 

If you need steroids to control the condition for longer, your doctor may recommend more drugs to reduce the risk of side effects associated with steroids.

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‘I can’t imagine any kind of future because the present is consumed by pain. I don’t know when I’ll ever get married. 

‘That stuff seems so trivial now. Air is the only thing that matters now. I hope to finish my masters degree some day. 

‘I hope to marry the love of my life and put on a beautiful white dress.’

Lucy said when she saw her mother after her shattering diagnosis, they cried in each other’s arms. 

‘I told her how sorry I am that I chose to vape, that I ruined my life with this decision, and that she is now suffering too. 

‘She told me do not put that on myself and said I am already carrying enough’.

After overcoming huge challenges in the past, Lucy believed the worst was behind her.

She found love and was finishing her masters degree to become a therapist.

‘My fiancé is an optimist. He believes I can beat this,’ she said.

‘We do the Wim Hof breathing method and ice baths every day. He always tells me I’ll get through this and everything will be alright. 

‘I fought so hard for the life that I have now – only to lose a tremendous quality of life from vaping.’

Lucy now goes to the ER every week to get steroids, and her pulmonologist – a doctor who specialises in lung conditions,  has ‘finally listened to her cries for help’ and put her on antibiotics.

‘I still am in lots of pain but trying to trust that the medicines will start working,’ she said.

‘If they don’t, in another month’s time, we will try something stronger. I also use steroid inhalers’.

Lucy added that the ‘medical community doesn’t have any experience with vaping’. 

‘It’s still too new. So they didn’t know how to help me.

‘They didn’t even believe me that something was wrong.

‘I was so desperate for answers and relief that I paid out of pocket for expensive tests and treatments. I spent a lot of money on alternative medicine.

‘My family has helped me spend over $30,000 on acupuncture, tests, doctors and treatments while my insurance denied my claims because my X-rays were clear. 

‘The money though, to me, doesn’t matter. To find healing and relief from this pain would be priceless.’        

She has shared her story on TikTok and said she receives between three and five messages a day from other vapers who are also ill. 

The former student has spent $30,000US ($45,000AUD) on treatments to get better and fears for the worst

The former student has spent $30,000US ($45,000AUD) on treatments to get better and fears for the worst

The former student has spent $30,000US ($45,000AUD) on treatments to get better and fears for the worst

‘Mostly they are scared and depressed, and their doctors are telling them that their X-ray is clear and that this is all in their head. 

‘It’s the exact same thing that happened to me. 

‘People write to me and tell me how grateful they are that my video appeared in their feed, they thank me and say “I may have just saved their life”. I have validated the suffering of so many people”

Debate over how harmful vaping is leads to confusion

E-cigarettes have the potential to benefit some people, by helping them quit smoking. But scientists still have a lot to learn about whether e-cigarettes are truly effective for quitting smoking and what the long-term risks are.

Nicotine is already known to be highly addictive and harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.

E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine. Aerosol is inhaled into the lungs and can contain potentially harmful substances, including heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.

US health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are investigating an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI). 

The mystery illness has swept across the states. Officials have identified Vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern. THC is present in most of the fluid samples collected from the lungs of ill people, and most patients report a history of using THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products.

‘Popcorn lung’ is the nickname for bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition which damages the smallest airways in the lungs and has been linked to people with vaping-related breathing problems. However, there’s no good evidence that e-cigarettes could cause the lung condition, according to Cancer Research UK.

The flavourings in electronic cigarettes may damage blood vessels in the same way as heart disease, according to research published in June 2018. 

The chemicals used to give the vapour flavours, such as cinnamon, strawberry and banana, can cause inflammation in cells in the arteries, veins and heart.

They cause the body to react in a way that mimics the early signs of heart disease, heart attacks or strokes, the study by Boston University found. 

Other recent studies have also suggested smoking e-cigarettes could cause DNA mutations which lead to cancer, and enable pneumonia-causing bacteria to stick to the lungs easier. 

Researchers at New York University subjected human bladder and lung cells to e-cigarette vapor, which is marketed as being healthier than tobacco.

They found the cells mutated and became cancerous much faster than expected and mice exposed to the vapour also suffered significant DNA damage. 

In another study, scientists at Queen Mary University, London, found vaping makes users more likely to catch pneumonia – just like smoking tobacco or breathing in traffic fumes.

The vapour from e-cigarettes helps bacteria which cause the condition to stick to the cells that line the airways, they said.

The effect occurs with traditional cigarette smoke and those who are exposed to air pollution high in particulates from vehicle exhausts. 

An April 20202 study found vaping damages the arteries and blood vessel function much like smoking traditional cigarettes.

The team studied measures of blood vessel function in e-cigarette and dual users who had been using e-cigarettes for at least three months.

All e-cigarette users were former cigarette smokers.

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Lucy issued a warning to other vapers.  

‘To those who are vaping, you are not immune. You may have been lucky thus far. I once thought that I was immune too. Some people smoke cigarettes for 60-70 years before they get cancer. Some people never get lung cancer. 

‘But that’s only because they have been lucky. You are playing with fire.

‘People need to be made aware of the risks. 

‘But that also they need to be made aware that we cannot and will not truly know the risks until more millennials and Gen Zs are dead from vaping. 

‘We will not know until it is too late.   

‘I wish vaping was illegal in the USA. But of course I wish that. Because then I probably never would have vaped. And this would have never happened to me. And the beautiful life I had been building would be mine.’

Lucy believes that the ‘worst is yet to come’. 

‘I am not the first person to get hypersensitivity pneumonitis from vaping. I will not be the last either. 

‘The archive of messages I keep from other vapers who are sick, leads me to believe that the worst is yet to come. 

‘Millennials and Gen Z will pay the price for this. We are victims of the vape companies praying on our addictive personalities.’ 

‘Addiction is a disease. All the people who love to remind me that this is my own fault are not helpful voices to the conversation. I got hypersensitivity pneumonitis from vaping.

‘I’ve never used disposables, carts, black market e-juices, defective devices.

‘People ask me all the time what brands I used. They want there to be one brand, one company to stay away from to avoid this. There is not. There is no common denominator. 

‘Everyone who is sick used different devices and brands. They all lead us to the same miserable illness, or other vaping illnesses that are equally miserable. 

‘It’ all vapes that are the problem. Not a specific one.’

Emily Banks, a professor in epidemiology and public health, told FEMAIL that research is still needed on the effects of vaping but there is evidence to show it has adverse effects on the lung health of young people and non-smokers.

‘Imagine your lungs, if rolled out, they are size of half a tennis court.

‘When you use an e-cigarette, you heat an e-liquid to a very high temperature.

‘This creates an aerosol which the user inhales.

‘Two hundred and forty four chemicals have been found in e-cigarettes, and that fills up very sensitive tissue.’

Professor Banks pointed to a study from the US showed that those that smoked vapes with vitamin E acetate and THC (cannabis) see more severe effects. 

‘We have some, but limited evidence, vaping can cause reduced lung function. 

‘There’s a huge amount of uncertainty about what this can do to the lungs.

‘Some people interpret a evidence as “this is probably okay” – but in public health its better to avoid if it can because harm.

‘Smoking is incredibly damaging to your lungs, it causes lung cancer,  and other lung issues.

‘The best thing smokers can do is quit. And three-quarters of people who do quit and succeed do it cold turkey. 

‘In Australia, e-cigarettes are only recommended to quit smoking. 

‘But they are now being marketed to young people and not used to quit, and young people face a significant risk.

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