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National vaping crisis alert began with local doctors at Children's Wisconsin

Posted: 3:40 PM, Nov 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-06 23:29:24-05
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MILWAUKEE — Casey Geraldo will have more on this story on Live at 10.

Children's Wisconsin doctors were first to piece together a national health crisis: vaping.

They said there's no reason kids with no other health issues should end up in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) with machines helping them breathe. But this summer several teenagers ended up in that situation.

"She was a grayish blue color," said Children's pediatrician Jennifer Schreiber. "It was terrifying."

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Dr. Schreiber saw one of the patients at her practice. She thought her 18-year-old patient was fighting pneumonia, but when she saw her, she knew this was more extreme.

"She was breathing so fast that at some point she was going to possibly stop breathing," she said.

Her patient was one of many with similar issues to go through the Children's PICU.

"She got confused with which patient was which because the stories all were identical with each other," explained Dr. Michael Meyer, who runs the PICU at Children's Wisconsin.

The doctors at the hospital realized the issue wasn't viral. Still, they didn't know what it was. They turned to checklists they ask patients when they're admitted to the hospital looking for answers.

"All of these cases had vaping associated with them and from a public health perspective as well as an education perspective, we needed to raise that alarm," said Dr. Michael Gutzeit, the Chief Medical Officer at Children's.

Dr. Meyer said doctors across the country started calling Children's because they were seeing the same issue.

Dr. Louella Amos, a pulmonologist, also known as a respiratory doctor, said they see more cases every week. She finds the epidemic overwhelming and sad.

"These were healthy teens, and they're in the hospital during the summer, due to something that could have been prevented," she said.

The I-TEAM asked the doctors if kids who vape should be scared: they all said yes.