FARGO — At first, the Johnson family thought their 18-year-old son Jimmy was battling the flu.
Visits to the doctor didn't reveal anything alarming at first, but a few days ago a CT scan revealed the otherwise healthy North High graduate had something troubling going on with his lungs.
"It caught the base of his lungs, and there was significant scarring," said Jimmy's mother, Rhonda Johnson. "It was really scary, the doctor said his oxygen saturations were that of a 90-year-old man with COPD."
It was at that point that Jimmy, barely able to breathe on his own, admitted that he and some of his friends had been vaping THC cartridges.
"He came clean about how much he was vaping and what he was vaping and (doctors) said this has to be vaping-related," Rhonda said.
The family was initially unsure of what was to come. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 deaths have been connected to vaping nationwide. Around 1,300 people have reported lung injuries like Jimmy's.
"If he were to go downhill, he would have ended up (being) intubated; they would have had to breathe for him," Rhonda explained. "They didn't know how to treat it because they don't understand what's causing the injury to the lungs."
Jimmy continues to recover, and he has reached out to friends who were using the same product. Because of his close call, he said he was able to convince them to quit.