Mother says vaping put Texas teen on ventilator. ‘I felt like this was my fault’

As her daughter lies in a hospital bed, a mother in Texas fears the worst: “The last conversation I had with her might have been the last.”

Jennifer Audas says her daughter Witney Livingston, 17, vaped three to four pods a week for the last two years, WFAA reported. Now, she’s on a ventilator in Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

“She told me she was smoking cigarettes and I thought it was safe... to smoke something else,” Audas said, according to the news outlet.

The two weeks prior, Livingston hadn’t been feeling well; she’d been vomiting and having trouble breathing, according to the news outlet. Her mother took her to a local hospital where a doctor said Livingston’s condition “looked like no pneumonia he had ever seen,” before transferring her to the children’s hospital in Dallas, KXAS reported.

When treatment for pneumonia didn’t seem to work, Audas says doctors began to suspect something else was at play: vaping, according to the news outlet. While doctors aren’t sure it’s the cause, Audas says she’s certain, KTVT reported.

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Witney Livingston, 17, is on a ventilator in Texas after vaping three to four pods a week over the last two years, her mom says. Screengrab: GoFundMe

Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, says he’s seen an uptick in similar cases in Dallas County, “from nine on Friday to 14 Tuesday,” the news outlet reported.

“The age range for the 14 cases we have goes from 16 to 44. The median age is 19, so six of them have been 18 or under,” Huang said, according to KTVT.

The nation saw its sixth death from what officials have called vaping-related lung illness when a person over age 50 died in Kansas only two weeks after starting to vape, the Kansas City Star reported. The person is described as having “underlying health issues” that had been stable prior to vaping.

As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified more than 450 cases of lung illness related to e-cigarette use across 33 states. Symptoms include cough, chest pain, shortness of breath and vomiting, the CDC says, adding that symptoms have been known to last a few days to a few weeks.

Last week, Michigan became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, in an effort to keep vaping at bay, CNBC reported. The Ohio Health Department announced Tuesday it plans to spend $4 million on initiatives to educate the youth on the dangers of vaping, the Associated Press reported.

“It would be certainly prudent to consider not using [vapes] at all,” Huang said, according to WFAA. “It is very alarming. Previously healthy teenagers, young adults, are now on ventilators.”

Audas says her daughter agreed. Audas had told Livingston about Tryston Zohfeld — another Texas teen who ended up on a ventilator after vaping and ultimately recovered — but the damage had already been done.

“She decided ‘Oh, I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to put this down. I’m not going to vape.’ And that night, she starting running a fever, so it was already too late for her,” Audas said, according to KTVT.

Only time will tell if Livingston will make a full recovery — in a Facebook post on Sunday her mom said the ventilator is still doing most of Livingston’s breathing — but in the meantime, Audas implores parents to be prudent.

“It’s important that parents really be proactive in not supplying that for their kids. Don’t give them money to do that. Help them make the right choices because it can save their life,” Audas said, according to KXAS. “My daughter almost died.”

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Dawson covers goings-on across the central region, from breaking to bizarre. She is an MSt candidate at the University of Cambridge and lives in Kansas City.