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Lung puncture found after night of vaping

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James was hospitalised for vaping after one night of vaping at the start of his bucks weekend. Doctors later found a hole in his lung.
Hospitalised for vaping

The uptake of vaping, especially among young people, has become a public health concern in Australia.

Vape-related hospitalisations have increased in Queensland between 2020 and 2022, according to documents obtained by TDA under a freedom of information request earlier this year.

So what does it look like to be hospitalised for vaping? TDA spoke to James Diamond, a 30-year-old from the Gold Coast, who has experienced this.

Hospitalised for vaping

James was hospitalised on the morning of 6 October. The day prior, he had been celebrating the start of his bucks weekend.

James purchased a disposable vape that day and said he puffed from his vape intermittently over 12 hours. During that time he said he also consumed about 10 drinks. He didn’t take any other substances that day.

When he woke up the next morning, James said he had breathing difficulties and felt extreme soreness in his neck and chest.

He thought he had a chest infection, but after his friends expressed concern, James was admitted to a private Gold Coast hospital.

James underwent a routine blood test in hospital, which found his creatine kinase (CK) levels were “consistent with a heart attack”. CK is a naturally occurring protein that can leak into a person’s bloodstream when the heart or brain is damaged.

Doctors eventually discovered a 3.2-millimetre puncture in his right lung.

Lung puncture

The puncture in the bottom of James’ right lung was leaking air into his chest cavity, making it difficult to breathe.

A respiratory specialist at the hospital said the puncture couldn’t have been caused by “anything other than vaping”.

This may have been due to vaping the prior day, years of damage caused by smoking cigarettes (he was an on-and-off smoker since 17), or a mix of both.

Pneumothorax

While in hospital, James was also diagnosed with spontaneous pneumothorax, a condition when air leaks between the lungs and chest wall.

Pneumothorax diagnoses among vaping-related patients are rising in QLD. Data obtained by TDA showed that five patients admitted with vaping conditions in QLD were diagnosed with pneumothorax from July 2022 to June 2023. Only two vaping-related patients were diagnosed with pneumothorax in the two and a half years prior.

James’ reflections

James was discharged from hospital after a two-night stay. He was told his lung would naturally heal after weeks without strenuous exercise or strain.

He has now quit vaping. However, he says he has still experienced persistent vape cravings since being discharged, which he described as the “scariest part”.

“It’s obviously a very, very significant health scare for a 30-year-old… it’s just insane that I still have the cravings.”

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