South Florida man warns to ‘vape at your own risk’ after contracting mystery illness

(WSVN) - Six deaths in the U.S. have been linked to vaping, and one South Florida man is part of a growing group of both doctors and users who now say to vape at your own risk. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek has more in tonight’s 7 Investigates.

Shawn Parton: “Previous balance: $124,577.”

They say good health is priceless, but for one South Florida family, the cost to recover from a mystery illness is more than they ever imagined.

Shawn Parton says it’s all because of an electronic cigarette.

Shawn Parton, former e-cigarette user: “People, in general, don’t realize the harm and the danger that it could do to your body.”

Over the past few months, Shawn says he smoked CBD oil through a vape pen. He says it was an easy way to help ease his anxiety.

Shawn Parton: “Sometimes, if it gets too much to the point, yes, I went to the vape pen ’cause it kind of just mellowed me out.”

Shawn says he felt an anxiety attack coming one day last month while he was at work, so he asked his coworker to buy him a vape cartridge.

He thought everything would be OK. It wasn’t.

Shawn Parton: “I start stumbling. I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. Next thing I know, I was on the floor.”

He passed out and had a seizure. When he woke up at the hospital, he couldn’t speak, so he typed out what he thought happened on his cellphone.

Marisa Parton, Shawn’s wife: “He basically told me he thought he died for a few minutes.”

Shawn tells 7News he believes he was given a bootleg vape cartridge that could have been laced with chemicals.

Doctors say they have seen a whole host of hazardous chemicals found in both bootleg e-cigarettes as well as name brand vaporizers.

Dr. Mehdi Mirsaeidi, UHealth Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine: “Heavy metal, and sometimes even with infections with fungi, and that is another big concern for public health.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 400 people in 33 states have reported lung issues and other health problems after smoking e-cigarettes, and doctors haven’t been able fully point out exactly what’s making people sick.

Dr. Mehdi Mirsaeidi: “Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain is another part — seizures. My main concern is long-term lung damage.”

Those numbers are expected to rise because, for now, many are worried that e-cigarettes are not being controlled in the same way traditional cigarettes are.

Erika Sward, American Lung Association, Assistant Vice President of National Advocacy: “These are unregulated and new products on the market, and there’s a lot that we just don’t know about them yet.”

Which prompted the American Medical Association to sound the alarm. “The AMA urges the public to avoid the use of e-cigarette products until health officials further investigate and understand the cause of these illnesses.”

Shawn Parton: “I’m a hard worker. I’ve been doing it for so long. Now I can’t, and it sucks. It really sucks.”

Shawn spent weeks in the hospital. He now needs help to walk, and his lingering headaches have become debilitating.

He and his wife are committed to getting people to quit vaping.

Marisa Parton: “There’s so many people that have contacted me and said, ‘Wow, I just called my cousin,’ or ‘I called my friend,’ or ‘I told my coworker, and they immediately threw it away.'”

They want to convince e-cigarette users that a short smoke break could end up leading to a long road of recovery.

President Trump this week announced a proposed banned on most flavored vaping products.

The Food and Drug Administration says it will develop guidelines to take e-cigarette flavors off the market, specifically those that are popular among children and teens.

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