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Children's health

13th Oct 2023

Vapes: 12-year-old girl from Belfast issues warning after serious vaping complications

A 12-year-old girl from Belfast was admitted to hospital after vaping seriously damaged her lungs.

Vapes are becoming more and more popular, despite healthcare professionals warning the public of just how dangerous they are. Not only are they growing in popularity with adults, but now more and more children are using them.

One mum has spoken out after her daughter, Sarah – who is only 12 years old – tried vaping and ended up in an induced coma. The young girl was admitted to ICU after vaping.

Sarah’s mother, Mary Griffin spoke out about their “nightmare” in a bid to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping.

They told the Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke team about the ordeal for their new vaping awareness campaign.

Mary, who is from Belfast, explained that her daughter has asthma so when she started to feel unwell, they presumed it was her asthma being triggered by the poor weather.

However, it was actually Sarah’s vaping habit that was causing issues with her breathing.

The next morning, Mary received a phone call no mother ever wants to get.

She explained: “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.”

Sarah then took another turn in the afternoon and told her mum that they needed to get to the hospital. Mary said her little girl could barely string a sentence together because she was “completely out of breath”.

Her dad rushed her to Royal Victoria Hospital, but “she was deteriorating very quickly”.

The medical team caring for Sarah admitted her to the ICU. They later explained to her parents that one of Sarah’s lungs was badly injured. Her other lung was “working overtime and aggravating her asthma”.

“Sarah also had an infection, so everything combined had a massive impact on her body, extremely quickly.”

The team put Sarah in an induced coma to help her body recover.

“As her mum, I just felt so helpless – it was a nightmare come true. I never thought something like this would happen to us, you never do.”

Sarah’s doctors eventually eased her off her ventilator and she came out of the induced coma after a few days.

They revealed that vaping had made her lungs incredibly weak, which is why her body struggles to fight off the infection.

Her doctors told her that she would now be marked as a high-risk patient going forward. Sarah also has to take steroids, and new inhalers and is extremely lethargic.

Her mum also revealed that Sarah has been transferred to the care of the Difficult to Control Asthma Clinic at The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

Before this incident, they were able to keep her asthma under control.

“Sarah hadn’t been vaping heavily but that, coupled with her asthma was such a dangerous combination. 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.”

Sarah and her mum hope their story will show people just how dangerous vaping is, especially for younger children with health conditions like asthma.

Mary added: “What Sarah has experienced could easily happen to other young people, and we don’t want that which is why we’re sharing our story and supporting NICHS’s vaping campaign.”