A woman warns young people against vaping after using for less than a year with a vaping-induced illness.
Lucy Turchin, 35, told news.com.au she started vaping because she thought it was a safe alternative to smoking, which she had stopped a year before she started and missed out.
It wasn’t until four months after picking up the habit that the Washington, D.C. woman began to notice that something wasn’t quite right with her breathing.
“This desperation for air came first. No matter what I did, I felt like I couldn’t get enough air. The symptoms would worsen if I lay down,” she said.
“I felt all this pressure on my chest. I would stay up all night gasping for breath. I also had pain and itching in my lungs.”
Turchin began visiting doctor after doctor—estimated as many as 50 in all—talking about her lung problems and asking if it had anything to do with vaping.
But she was consistently told that vaping was safe and instead told she was anxious because her x-rays showed nothing.
“As my symptoms worsened, I became more and more depressed,” Turchin said.
“Every specialist I visited couldn’t find anything wrong with me. In the end I decided it had to be the vape. So I stopped. It wasn’t even hard to stop at that point. I just wanted my life back. I just wanted air. I had only been vaping for about a year at that point.
Within six months of quitting vaping, her symptoms subsided and she felt like she had her life back.
Turchin continued to follow up with doctors and an allergy expert diagnosed her with vocal cord dysfunction without doing any tests.
She started smoking cigarettes for four months and was doing fine, but on a night out with friends, she took a hit of a friend’s vape.
All the symptoms returned and she was furious and felt abandoned by the doctors.
It all came to a head when someone blew a cloud of vapor in her face in February and she “felt her lungs swell.”
“I was in so much pain. I cried and cried. My mom kept telling me to go to the ER,” Turchin said.
“But I said no, they never found anything. They never helped me. This time it would be no different.”
Eventually, she was hospitalized and assigned a doctor who, according to Lucy, was actually hearing her about her lungs.
The doctor ordered a high-resolution CT scan of Turchin’s lung and discovered hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lung tissue and is caused by the immune system. after inhalation of certain substances such as fungi.
She cried when her concerns were finally heard and justified, and thanked the doctor for listening to her.
It’s been three years since Turchin stopped vaping and she’s in constant pain and terrified to leave the house in case she accidentally inhales vape smoke from a passerby.
“I am traumatized and depressed. I canceled my wedding because I’m too sick,” she said. “I spend a lot of time in hospitals and emergency rooms.”
“The steroids I’m prescribed are terrible for me emotionally, as well as physically. I’m afraid. I am angry with myself. I feel very alone.”
Turchin has taken to social media to raise awareness about the harm vaping can do, predicting that in two decades there will be so many more like them.
She said the only thing she can do is make sense of what happened to her by helping save others – but she’s often called a liar for her efforts.
“People need to know the dangers of vaping so they can make an informed decision. They need to know the risks,” Turchin said, adding that if she had known the risks, she never would have done it.
She wished that more people affected by vaping-induced illness would come forward, and that young people had been “lucky” with the consequences until now.
It comes as a crackdown on vaping in Australia to prevent young people from picking up the habit.
The May budget announced a crackdown on imports of vapes, plain packaging and a ban on flavors to address the health emergency of thousands of teens who have been “crazed” by e-cigarettes.
But the second phase of that crackdown — licensing vendors and using that money to drive state-level enforcement action — is the next phase of a world-leading crackdown.
There are also calls to ban vape ads on social media targeting children, including on Snapchat and Instagram.
According to the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care, e-cigarettes can contain nicotine, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals.
In 2019, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning after 200 reports of lung disease surfaced across the country, prompting Australia to closely monitor its use.