A North Carolina woman who quit smoking for vaping thinking it was a healthier option has died after her lungs ‘shut down’.
Amanda Lee Hall, 44, from the city of Sanford in the east of the state, was smoking half a pack of Marlboro’s a day but took up e-cigarettes in 2014 amid fears for her health.
She switched to vaping but would puff on the device so much that her wife Kristen Hensley would joke there was a ‘fruity cloud’ following her wherever she went.
But in the fall of 2019, things took a turn for the worse when the warehouse worker started struggling to breathe and was put in a coma. When she woke she found herself struggling to use her hands and with a paralyzed voice box. She died a year and a half later.
Many Americans see vapes as safe, but evidence is mounting that e-cigarettes also cause severe damage to the lungs and heart comparable to traditional tobacco products.
Ms Hall pictured with her vape while inside a restaurant. The vape is clasped in her right hand
Ms Hall’s widow said she was puffing on her vape constantly. It was so much that she even joked there was a ‘fruity cloud’ following her around. Ms Hall is shown above vaping in hospital
Ms Hall is shown above in hospital receiving help with her lungs. Doctors said the initial damage was likely caused by the vapes
Ms Hall’s widow said: ‘If you know anyone who vapes, please ask them to stop. I don’t want anyone to go through what Amanda has been through.
‘It’s not only the vapes containing THC, or bought on the black market… It’s the regular flavored vapes and those with nicotine that are also causing the vaping illness.’
She added: ‘It’s killing people. I have had several people say they thought the warnings about vaping were simply propaganda from the tobacco companies to get people to start smoking again. This is not true.’
Vapes have soared in popularity in the US with an estimated 8.1million Americans now puffing on the devices every week, if not every day.
This includes more than 3million children in middle and high school, who have been taken in by brands offering fruity flavors.
Studies have suggested they leave users with the same risk of heart problems and don’t help people quit cigarettes.
Ms Hall began smoking cigarettes when she was just 14 years old and continued for 22 years.
At the height of her addiction, she was smoking about 10 Marlboro Lights a day. But she decided to swap to vaping in 2014 after her lifelong-smoker father was diagnosed with a terminal lung condition.
Amanda Lee Hall (right), 44, from Sanford, North Carolina, pictured with her wife Kristen Hensley and their dog. She quit smoking cigarettes in 2014 and took up vaping amid concerns for her health
After five years of vaping, Ms Hall was rushed to the hospital with lung damage that her widow says was caused by the devices. She is shown above in hospital
Ms Hall started using vapes and was a particular fan of fruity flavors.
Her widow Ms Hensley told DailyMail.com: ‘Almost every picture had her vape pen somewhere in it. She vaped nonstop.
‘I joked that she had a fruity cloud with her everywhere she went. She would take it into the movie theater or anywhere.
‘When I would complain, she would say that it was just vapor and she was just getting some low doses nicotine that helped calm her nerves.’
Ms Hall vaped constantly for five years before starting to struggle to breathe in September 2019.
She was taken to the doctors and diagnosed with bronchitis and given antibiotics.
But the following day – when the breathing problems continued – she was rushed to the ER. Tests showed that her blood oxygen level was 65, compared to a normal range for people of 95 to 100.
Doctors put her in an induced coma and on a ventilator which breathed for her to let her lungs ‘recover’.
After 10 days, she was then moved to a rehabilitation clinic, where she had to re-learn how to use her hands and speak.
People on ventilators may have reduced blood flow to their extremities, such as the hands. This can lead to the areas becoming starved of oxygen, triggering damage to the nerves there.
Patients can also suffer a paralyzed voice box because of the tubes placed down the throat for the ventilator.
Ms Hensley said that doctors believed at the time her hospitalization was down to the vape.
She said: ‘Doctors believed she suffered the initial lung injury from vaping.
‘The entire first hospitalization was due to the vaping injury.
‘After that, they believe she had a previously undiagnosed autoimmune disorder that once her lungs were injured launched a full-out attack on them believing them to be the enemy.’
Chemicals breathed in from vapes can damage the small airways of the lungs, triggering inflammation and scarring, say doctors at Johns Hopkins University.
This reduces the amount of oxygen the lungs are able to absorb with each breathe, raising the risk of a host of health issues.
Ms Hall is pictured above with her vape pen while shopping and sightseeing. She would take it everywhere with her
Ms Hall with her father. She decided to switch from smoking to vaping after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness due to smoking
Ms Hall pictured before her lung problems began with wife Ms Hensley. They got married in 2014
An autoimmune condition is when the immune system misfires and starts to attack the body’s own cells, mistaking them for a threat. Ms Hall was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease, where an attack by white blood cells leads to inflammation and scarring in the organ.
Ms Hall stopped vaping immediately after the first hospitalization, but she continued to struggle with lung problems.
She was re-admitted to hospital again in February 2020 for double pneumonia, and again in December 2020 after she woke up to find she had turned blue and could ‘barely stand up’.
Her widow drove her to the hospital and doctors rushed out to get her inside.
‘[But] when they came out to the car to help get her they asked me if she was normally that color,’ Ms Hensley said.
‘That was the longest she was on the ventilator December 30, 2020, to February 4, 2021.’
Tests at the time also showed her blood oxygen levels were in the 50s.
Ms Hall was kept in hospital on a ventilator, but doctors said she was not going to make a recovery.
‘I completely believed her lungs would heal from the vaping injury and she would be healthy again – but I was wrong,’ said her widow.
‘I was told there was no meaningful chance of improvement and that it was unlikely she would ever be able to survive without the ventilator, especially as her stats wouldn’t improve – where they told me to say my goodbyes.
‘I was able to talk to her and hold her hand while she was dying until she closed her eyes and took her last breath.’
Doctors recorded her cause of death as post-tracheostomy bleeding, or when there is bleeding from the windpipe or trachea into the lungs.
They also recorded secondary causes of staphylococcal pneumonia and interstitial lung disease.
Talking about the loss, Ms Hensley said: ‘We lost the heart of our family and it’s a loss that we will never recover from.
‘Since losing her, life has been miserable and I feel adrift — every day is a struggle just to function and her absence is felt to the core.
‘Amanda wanted others to be aware of the dangers of vaping and the opportunity to share her story, even if it only helps one person, would be amazing.
‘People are dying from this habit.
‘With smoking, at least doctors know what the long-term effects are but this is new and unregulated.
‘No one knows what it is really doing to people.’
Ms Hensley said she had now been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of the ordeal and is struggling to sleep due to nightmares. She says she also wakes up crying.
‘She was the first woman I went out with and I was terrified at first, but I had so much fun with her,’ she said.
‘She put me at ease, made me laugh and was just so adorable.
‘Life isn’t the same without her, but my love for Amanda will always stay alive – she was my everything and so much more.
‘I hope my wife’s story will help others who are trying to deter this deadly habit and hopefully avoid the same devastating fate we’ve all suffered.’
Since Ms Hall’s death, her family, including her sister, Angela, 48, are struggling to piece their lives back together.
She has launched a GoFundMe to help cover hospital bills, where she has raised $2,080 (USD), with an end goal of $5,000 (USD).