Health & Medicine

Placer County mother begs you to stop vaping. Her son is in a coma and might die, she says

Two points of view on Sacramento’s flavored tobacco ban

An American Cancer Society representative and a smoke shop store owner weigh in as the Sacramento City Council votes Tuesday, April 16, 2019, to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarette cartridges and menthol cigarettes.
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An American Cancer Society representative and a smoke shop store owner weigh in as the Sacramento City Council votes Tuesday, April 16, 2019, to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarette cartridges and menthol cigarettes.

A woman in the Placer County town of Loomis says she might lose her 21-year-old son to a disease associated with vaping — the use of e-cigarettes to deliver tobacco, marijuana and other drugs.

“We don’t know if Ricky is going to make it ... if we still get to go on our family trip together or if I’ll be planning his funeral,” Christy D’Ambrosio said Tuesday in a Facebook post that’s gone viral locally.

D’Ambrosio said her son is suffering from acute respiratory failure, a condition that’s been tied to vaping in more than 40 medical cases in California and more than 200 across the country, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The centers reported the first death associated with vaping on Aug. 23.

In the post, Ricky is pictured in a hospital gown, unconscious with several tubes inserted into his arms and throat, and a towel strapped to his heart possibly covering a wound. D’Ambrosio said her son is currently paralyzed and in a medically induced coma.

The grieving mother asked viewers to repost her warning: “Let Ricky be an example so you or your loved ones DO NOT NEED TO GO THROUGH THIS.”

D’Ambrosio did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The CDC has been cautioning for several years that vaping may be a dangerous practice. The agency reported on Aug. 30 that it is investigating a “multistate outbreak of severe pulmonary disease” associated with vaping.

As of Aug. 27, 13 counties in California had filed reports of vaping-associated illnesses. At least one was reported in Sacramento County, two in Stanislaus County and seven in Kings County, according to public statements.

Placer County Health and Human Services spokeswoman Katie Combs Prichard said no deaths have been reported in California to date.

While the investigation is ongoing and experts have not yet identified a specific culpable product, the CDC has established that the products are highly addictive, toxic to fetuses, and perilous to teenagers and pregnant women. They also warn that e-cigarette substances can contain cancer-causing chemicals.

Most hospitalized patients in California reported vaping cannabis products such as the chemicals cannabidiol and tetrahydro-cannabidiol, according to Prichard. However, she said some reports listed nicotine-containing products as well.

Prichard confirmed in a written statement to The Bee that one case of suspected vaping-associated pulmonary disease was reported to Placer County Public Health. However, confidentiality prevented her from disclosing whether the patient was the man identified in the Facebook post as Ricky and whether he was smoking cannabis or nicotine-containing products.

While the CDC is looking into vaping habits and products and continues investigating hospitalized patients, it suggests not using e-cigarette products.

It said patients in the investigation have reported the following symptoms:

  • Cough, shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, fever or weight loss

Some patients said the symptoms developed over several days, others over weeks, the agency said.

If you need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, health officials say you should contact your doctor.

If you are an e-cigarette user and feel concerned about your health, contact your local poison control center at 800-222-1222 and report any unexpected health or product issues to the federal Food and Drug Administration on its online Safety Reporting Portal.

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Caroline Ghisolfi, from Stanford University, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and health care. She grew up in Milan, Italy.
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