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Utah teen says vaping put her in a coma, worst case doctors had seen

NEPHI, Utah — A Utah teen is sharing her story, after she said vaping sent her to the ICU, in a medically-induced coma.

This comes as the Utah Department of Health is urging caution in using vape products, amid a rash of severe vaping-related illnesses reported to the department.

Maddie Nelson, of Nephi, was a healthy 18-year old, who said she vaped every day for three years. She said everyone at her high school vaped.

"I thought vaping was fine," Maddie said. "I did all the tricks, all the time."

Maddie said she started out with zero nicotine vape juice, but eventually increased to 3 mg of nicotine.

"I used all sorts of different products, from all sorts of vape shops across Utah County," she explained. "I used Naked Juice, all sorts of name brand juices."

In late July, Maddie described how she mysteriously fell ill and ended up in the hospital in a medically-induced coma.

"The doctors said that it was definitely from vaping," she said.

It started with feeling sick over the course of a few months, and Maddie said she didn't have an appetite.

The sickness escalated when Maddie couldn't keep any food down, and began to run a fever. She said she went to the hospital in Payson.

"My temperature was so high, my brain just completely shut off," Maddie recounted. "I thought I was in the Payson hospital for one night, and I was actually there for four days."

She said doctors there couldn't figure out what was wrong. Maddie was transferred to Timpanogos Regional Hospital, where she said she was put into a medically-induced coma for three days in the ICU.

That's when she said doctors figured out what was wrong.

"I had fat particles growing inside my lungs that were related to the glycerin in vape juice," Maddie explained. "So then my lungs were full of fluid. They said that my chest X-rays were one of the worst they've ever seen."

How doctors explained it to Maddie and her family: "When you inhale the moisture, it's just creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow inside your lungs and for infection to start. And that is basically what happened," Maddie said.

She said she developed eosinophilic pneumonia, similar to what the Utah Department of Health has been reporting others around the state have been experiencing.

According to the health department, the other cases also ended with severe illness and hospitalization.

At one point, Maddie indicated her family didn't know if she would survive.

"My family seriously thought that I had passed away, and when I found that out, it just made me so sad," she said, as tears welled in her eyes.

Maddie was taken out of her medically-induced coma, and a few weeks later, she's doing much better.

Still, she hasn't fully recovered.

Maddie said she still needs to use oxygen at night. She said her chest will start to feel tight out of nowhere.

"It's very scary, because the doctors don't know the long term effects of this," Maddie said. "So they don't know what the healing process is even supposed to be like."

That's why she said they are continuing to monitor her.

Maddie indicated that insurance didn't cover the entire hospital stay and she's now in medical debt.

A family member is trying to help Maddie raise money to cover the bills.

"After going through that, I would never touch a vape again," she said.

The Utah Department of Health said Monday that they are testing vape products to see if they can determine what in the products might be causing people to get sick.

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