California woman collapsed on Christmas with ‘vape lung’ says ‘I looked dead’

By | February 22, 2020

‘I look dead’: California woman who spent two weeks in the hospital with ‘vape lung’ after collapsing on Christmas Day warns urges teens – and adults – to stay away from e-cigarettes

  • Julia Itzen, 37, of Los Angeles, California suddenly collapsed on Christmas Day
  • She wound up spending two weeks in the hospital with ‘vape lung’ as her doctors described her breathing trouble and inflammation 
  • Julia is still on inhaled steroids to try to quell the inflammation  
  • She says she used only nicotine e-cigs to help her quit smoking, rather than THC that triggered the majority of deadly vaping lung illnesses 
  • Now Julia is warning that vaping is dangerous even for adults using e-cigarettes as cessation tools  

A 37-year-old woman in California believed vaping would help her get healthier because it would make it easier for her to quit smoking. 

She kept it up for more than five years – and then she collapsed, on Christmas Day. 

Julia Itzen was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and would remain there for two weeks, struggling to take a full breath or get through a sentence without stopping to rest. 

Her doctors told Julia she had what they referred to ‘vape lung,’ their term for shallow breath an lung inflammation in chronic e-cigarette users, NBC4 reported.

Now she’s warning not just teenagers, but adults like herself, that even if you only vape nicotine, you could wind up with permanent lung damage. 

Julia Itzen had to spend two weeks in the hospital for 'vape lung' and kept a video diary of her painful recovery

At just 37, Julia thought she was getting healthier by vaping instead of smoking

Julia Itzen had to spend two weeks in the hospital for ‘vape lung’ and kept a video diary of her painful recovery (left). At just 37, Julia thought she was getting healthier by vaping instead of smoking (right)

Julia is out of the hospital now, but will be using steroids to combat her lung inflammation for some time

Julia is out of the hospital now, but will be using steroids to combat her lung inflammation for some time 

At first, vaping helping Julia get everything she hoped to from not smoking. 

‘My sense of smell came back like, scar – like a bloodhound,’ Julia told NBC4. 

‘My sense of taste came back. 

She used e-cigarettes just the way their makers claim their meant to be used: to help adults over 21 to ditch cigarettes to reduce their risks of lung cancer and disease, emphysema and heart problems, as well as regaining some of those more mundane faculties that had been dulled for Julia. 

But even after she stopped buying cigarettes, Julia kept vaping, for five-and-a-half years. 

Like about eight percent of American adults, e-cigarettes became part of her regular week, and she felt confident that was okay. 

Although they’d certainly gained unprecedented popularity in more recent years, e-cigarettes had been around for more than a decade, and Julia felt she was in good company as a vaper. 

‘It wasn’t just punk kids [doing it],’ she said. 

‘It was doctors and stockbrokers. It was adults trying to quit cigarettes.’  

She says she never used THC or bootleg vapes, especially not after story after story emerged of Americans – otherwise young, healthy ones – landing in comas or even dying – from using these types of devices. 

And then she found herself lying in a hospital bed, oxygen tubes running to either nostril, doctors and nurses checking her vitals. 

Her Christmas Day collapse led to a diagnosis with ‘vape lung.’ 

It wan’t technically the same illness that has taken the lives of at least 64 Americans, but vaping was the only explanation for Julia’s tight-chested wheezing and battered lungs. 

Looking back at videos of herself in the hospital, Julia said: 'I look dead. I'm gone'

Looking back at videos of herself in the hospital, Julia said: ‘I look dead. I’m gone’ 

Now Julia is warning that e-cigarettes are not worth the damage she's done to her body and the long recovery ahead of her. Pictured: with her partner, Andrew

Now Julia is warning that e-cigarettes are not worth the damage she’s done to her body and the long recovery ahead of her. Pictured: with her partner, Andrew 

‘I’m 37-years-old and I want my mom,’ she gasped in a tearful video shot from her hospital bed. 

She was lucky never to have to be in intensive care, but even after two weeks in the hospital, Julia is not fully recovered. 

Several times a day, she has to do breathing treatments with steroids to combat inflammation to her lungs. 

Over time, her body may heal some of the damage vaping did to Julia’s lungs, but they may just as well be forever impaired. 

Looking back at one of the videos she took of herself during those two weeks in the hospital, Julia said: ‘I look dead. I’m gone.’ 

‘If you want to be like this, keep vaping.’  

Or at least she very nearly was. Julia still breaks into a tight hacking cough periodically. 

‘I am so lucky to be alive, that it was caught,’ she says. 

 

 

 

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