A North Texas teenager said he thought he had coronavirus when he got sick a couple of months ago.
It turned out to be side effects of vaping.
Ronald Cruz was preparing to graduate from W.T. White High School in Dallas when he suddenly found himself in a hospital in April.
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“I thought I got the coronavirus so I was like 'Mom I got to go get tested you know I don't want to spread this around,'” Cruz said.
It wasn’t the virus.
His doctor said Cruz was suffering from respiratory failure from vaping. His condition worsened fast.
He ended up in a coma and was flown to Medical City Plano.
“He was on life support, his oxygen was very, very low and that’s how he arrived to us,” said Dr. Crescens Pellecchia, Director of ECMO at Medical City Plano.
As Cruz’s condition worsened, Dr. Pellecchia began ECMO therapy, a risky treatment reserved for the most life-threatening situations.
“We’re taking a large volume of blood out. It goes to the machine where we add oxygen to it. Pull off the carbon dioxide and then put that blood back and in the same time we actually basically shut down the lungs and let them completely rest,” said Dr. Pellecchia.
After a week on ECMO therapy, Cruz improved and was discharged about a month after he left home.
“I was happy, just happy that I got to hug my family again,” Cruz said.
Dr. Pellecchia said he’s “100%” sure ECMO therapy saved Cruz’s life. He said one in four patients who arrive at the hospital with a vaping lung injury end up on life support.
“Before COVID, we were focusing on vaping and I think people need to know that especially younger people, don't vape,” said Dr. Pellecchia.
Cruz doesn't remember much about the experience but said looking at photos opened his eyes to the dangers of vaping.
“Even though you don't know it’s killing you, it’s killing you inside,” Cruz said.
Cruz considered the experience a wake-up call, too.
He said he wasn’t planning to immediately attend college but is now officially a high school graduate, looking at colleges and a career in health care.
“I feel like God was wanting me to stopping that and just focus on going to school and doing the best for myself,” he said.
Cruz is not the first success story from the ECMO therapy told recently by NBC 5.