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Mum's heartache as 12-year-old daughter put in induced coma after vaping

Jess Hardiman

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Mum's heartache as 12-year-old daughter put in induced coma after vaping

Featured Image Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke

A mum has shared her heartache after her 12-year-old daughter was put in an induced coma after vaping, saying she hopes their story will encourage other young people to ‘think twice’.

Mary Griffin, from Belfast, is speaking out to raise awareness of the potential dangers of vaping, especially among young people.

Her daughter, Sarah, was recently admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and placed in a coma, having been rushed to hospital when she began to suffer breathing problems one Sunday night.

Sarah with mum Mary. Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
Sarah with mum Mary. Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
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Speaking as part of Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s (NICHS) new vaping awareness campaign, Mary recalled: “Sarah was getting ready for bed and said she didn’t feel great. She started coughing but because Sarah has asthma, we put that down to the change in weather as that has been a trigger for Sarah’s asthma before. Her cough was no different from any other time and she used her inhaler and nebuliser throughout the Sunday night into Monday morning.

“That morning I was taking my other two children to school when Sarah rang and said, ‘Come back mummy, I don’t feel well, I’m afraid’. I got home, gave Sarah her inhaler and nebuliser again and she seemed to settle.

“A while later I popped out to the shop quickly and Sarah rang again, this time completely out of breath, barely able to string a sentence together, saying, ‘I need a doctor or to go to hospital’.”

Mary said her daughter was 'terrified'. Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
Mary said her daughter was 'terrified'. Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
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Sarah’s dad immediately took her to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where a nurse found her oxygen levels were ‘very low’.

“The next thing I knew, Sarah’s dad phoned me to say Sarah was in Resus,” Mary said.

“I went to the hospital, and Sarah was just in a blind panic, she was terrified. She was on oxygen and was linked up to all sorts of machines. There were medical staff all around her assessing her and they said she needed to go to ICU as she was deteriorating very quickly.”

Mary said the doctor showed her an x-ray to illustrate that one of Sarah’s lungs was ‘badly injured’.

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This meant the other lung was therefore ‘working overtime and aggravating her asthma’.

Sarah also had an infection, so ‘everything combined had a massive impact on her body, extremely quickly’, Mary explained.

Doctors worked on Sarah for four-and-a-half hours before they had to put her into an induced coma – a sight Mary found ‘heart-breaking’, as it left her feeling ‘helpless’.

“It was a nightmare come true,” she said, having felt ‘terrified’ that she might die.

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Sarah remained ‘very unstable’ for some time, and had to be placed in an induced coma again after she became ‘agitated’ when doctors tried to bring her out of it initially.

Doctors said vaping had left Sarah's lungs 'very weak'. Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
Doctors said vaping had left Sarah's lungs 'very weak'. Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke

Eventually, doctors were able to take Sarah out of the coma, and while her family were worried she might be in hospital for ‘weeks or even months’, she returned home after a few days.

“The doctors explained that if Sarah hadn’t of been vaping, she would have been in a better position to fight off the infection,” Mary continued.

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“Vaping had left her lungs very weak.”

“The doctors said if Sarah had of got to hospital any later the outcome would have been entirely different. That is something I can’t even think about."

Sarah is now recovering at home, but the effects of what happened to her will continue to impact her long-term.

“For the rest of her life Sarah will be classed as a high-risk patient if she is admitted to hospital because of the effect this has had on her physically,” Mary said, adding: “Sarah has been left very lethargic. She is usually full of energy, constantly talking and on the go but she is still recovering and isn’t back to her usual self yet.

“The mental impact has been as big as the physical impact. She has been through such a trauma. She still has a long road ahead of her, but we are just so grateful to have her back home with us.”

The pair are now speaking out to raise awareness. Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
The pair are now speaking out to raise awareness. Credit: Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke

Mary said her daughter ‘hadn’t been vaping heavily’, but that it was a ‘dangerous combination’ when coupled with her asthma.

“Young people are attracted to the bright colours and flavours of vapes - they might smell and taste sweet, but people need to know about the potential dangers associated with them,” she said.

“We want other young people to see the potential impact vaping can have as it will hopefully make them think twice about doing it. The photos of Sarah in ICU are hard to look at, but we think it’s important young people see these and get a better understanding of the possible dangers.

“Sarah says that if sharing her story helps save another young person and their family going through the same thing we have then it’s worth doing.”

Topics: Health, News, Parenting, Vaping

Jess Hardiman
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