Teen Hospitalized After Vaping Addiction On Mission To Save Others
Anna Carey, 16, spoke at a roundtable discussion about e-cigarettes and vaping on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, at the UNT Health Science Center. Anna was an invited guest of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and was joined by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Karen Schultz, M.D., medical director of Pulmonology at Cook Children's, UNT President Michael Williams and others. Anna made quite an impact. We were so impressed with Anna, we asked her to tell her story.
My name is Anna Carey, and I am 16 years old. I was hospitalized at Cook Children’s for five days because of vaping and dabbing.
I used to play volleyball and tennis, but now I will never be able to play sports again. I started vaping when I was a freshman in high school with a Vuse Vibe that I got from a senior. I switched to the Juul a few months later just because it was “cooler” than the vibe.
I got caught by my parents too many times to count my freshman year, but I never stopped vaping. The summer going into my sophomore year, I stopped because I had no one to buy pods for me. When school started back up in the fall, I started vaping again. This time, seniors would buy pods for me.
Honestly, anyone who is over 18 would buy for me. It really was not hard at all. Around November of my sophomore year, I started to use THC carts, and I began selling pods and carts to my whole school.
I was known for vaping, and it became my entire reputation. We even had a talent show, and my friends and I were called “The Starter Pack” (which is what Juul calls their packages), and my shirt said “salesman.”
Halfway through the year, I switched to Njoy because it was way cheaper than Juul. I lost a lot of friends from middle school because of this, and a relationship ended because of vaping and dabbing. But I didn’t care. Nothing could make me stop. Not even the random pains in my chest when I would use my dab pen, which I mostly ignored.
I feel like I got the entire freshman class addicted to vaping. This past summer, my mom found all of my vapes and dab pens and threw them all away. Since I had been having some pains and lost some friendships, I decided it was time to quit dabbing. But I didn’t stop vaping.
On the first day of school of my junior year, so many people came up to me asking to buy for them, but I was done selling. The guilt of causing all of these addictions had become too much, and I could not escape my reputation at the school.
I left school and became homeschooled, but now I could use my njoy all day. My siblings bought the pods for me because I would get so angry if I did not have pods, and the withdrawals were not worth quitting to me. I saw the news of people dying or getting hospitalized, and I still didn’t care. Literally, nothing would make me stop. I would say things like, “I guess I’m going to vape more” or “I’m not going to stop until I’m hooked up.”
After about two months of me stopping dabbing, I decided to start again because “why not?” I was completely broke, but every penny would go toward vaping and dabbing. I had a system created in my head. I knew I needed $10 every four days because I would go through two njoy pods in about three to four days. I also needed $35 every two weeks for two carts because one THC cartridge would last me one week.
About one month before I was hospitalized, I went to the doctors and got an X-ray on my lungs, and it came back clear. They gave me an inhaler and told me to stop vaping, but I didn’t listen. The pain was insignificant to me since the X-ray came back clear, and I barely used the inhaler.
Then, one day, I was cleaning my room, and all of a sudden, a wave of exhaustion hit me. I was completely drained of all my energy and laid in bed for two days. I had the most awful pain when I breathed and moved, I honestly thought I broke a rib somehow. The day the pain started, I stopped using my THC carts and cut back on my vaping to about three hits a day just to feed my addiction.
I had the worst aches of my life. We still don’t know if that was from withdrawing or the disease, but the pains lasted a week and a half.
I completely lost my appetite and couldn’t eat anything but a piece of fruit a day. About two days after the pain started, we decided to go to Cook Children’s. We waited in the waiting room while I cried my eyes out because of the pain. They did an X-ray on my lungs and an EKG, and it all came back clear. They sent me home, just as I came, and I laid in bed for the rest of the week, just hoping that the pain would go away with time.
Six days from when the pain started, I decided to go to a basketball game with my friend. We had to go up and down stairs where I had to take breaks every couple of minutes so I could catch my breath. It felt like I was running a marathon, even though I just went up a small hill.
The next day we decided to go to urgent care. Still, they couldn’t find anything wrong with me, so they sent me to the local emergency room and did an X-ray where they found that I had pneumonia.
They immediately sent me in an ambulance to Cook Children’s, where they diagnosed me with chemical pneumonia. I was placed on oxygen and monitoring, and it was the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life. I could not move without gasping for air, my chest constantly ached, and every time I breathed, a sharp pain went through my entire chest. I felt completely helpless.
The scariest part of this whole situation was how little everyone still knows about this disease or how dangerous vaping is for kids. The doctors didn’t know if I would be OK or how much my lungs would heal or anything. The unknown was definitely not worth the vaping at all. I think I needed to be hospitalized to stop vaping, and I think there is a lot of other people who are the same way. It’s hard for a news article to really make a change with a teenager, and I think the only way to end this, is to end vaping.
I caused so many people to be addicted to this. Now I need to help them stop.
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