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Teenager hospitalized after vaping with THC: "My lungs are like a 70-year-old's"

IL teen facing potential vaping illness
18-year-old hospitalized after he said he vaped with THC 03:06

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 200 cases of severe respiratory diseases potentially linked to vaping. The agency confirms at least one person has died from vaping-related illnesses.

Government health investigators say they discovered a chemical – an oil derived from Vitamin E – found in samples of marijuana vaping products from patients all over the country who got sick after vaping. In a case that shows the potential dangers from vaping unknown or uncertain substances, an Illinois teenager talked with CBS News about his near-death experience.

Adam Hergenreder, of Gurnee, Illinois has been hospitalized since last week. "I'm 18 years old. My lungs are like a 70-year-old's," he said.

Hergenreder said he vaped with THC, the primary ingredient of marijuana. "I got it off a drug dealer."

Correspondent Dean Reynolds asked, "You're buying it off the street from some guy that you don't really know, in retrospect do you think that was kind of dumb?" 

"Yeah," he replied. "When you're addicted like that, I don't think that goes through your mind."

Soon after, Hergenreder became feverish, started vomiting, and was gasping for breath. His mother, Polly, drove him to the hospital where he went straight to intensive care.

"It's probably every parent's nightmare," she said. "And we couldn't make Adam better."

"Did you ever think that your son might die?" Reynolds asked.

"Yes, because we were told he would have."

Hergenreder told Reynolds he'd been vaping for about two years, to get the buzz from nicotine, and then the high from marijuana. Now he says, when he tries to take a deep breath, "Most of the time it ends up in a cough." 

He says now he regrets it. "Of course. My lungs will never be the same."

Hergenreder's pulmonologist, Dr. Stephen Amesbury, worries that the current crisis may be only the beginning.

Reynolds asked, "Do you have any doubt in your mind that vaping is responsible for this?"

"There doesn't seem to be anything else turning up in these cases," Dr. Amesbury replied. "We look for other potential causes, but we haven't been able to find anything else, and coincidentally all these people have been vaping."

Contaminants and counterfeit vaping products have been of interest to health officials investigating these illnesses, and while the potential link to the Vitamin E oil is important, the FDA says much more testing is needed to get at the cause of what's making people sick. 

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