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Local man’s death linked to vaping

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | February 7, 2024 2:00 AM

On Jan. 6 Sabine Samuell of Columbia Falls took her husband Jude to the emergency room at Logan Health in Whitefish.

The man had been suffering from a cold and now had shallow breathing. Over the course of a few hours, his condition worsened greatly. He was transferred to the intensive care unit at Logan Health in Kalispell. He was intubated and by 8 p.m. he was life flighted to a hospital in Spokane.

Jude Samuell’s lungs were failing, and as the days passed it became clear that they would never get better. Mr. Samuell, whose life was now supported by a extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine (called ECMO)  needed a double lung transplant to survive. Mrs. Samuell said doctors looked for a donor pair of lungs for him, but because he was unconscious and regressing, he was not a good candidate and he was ultimately denied by the donating hospitals.

On Jan. 26 Mr. Samuell was taken off of life support. He died that same day. He was just 22. The couple had been married just three years.

Doctors said that vaping contributed his Mr. Samuell’s death, Sabine Samuell said.

Vapes are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol, which typically can contain nicotine (though not always), flavorings, and other chemicals.  Sabine Samuel said that her husband began smoking when he was about 18, but had decided to quit, so he turned to vaping. He didn’t vape nicotine even, just the  flavored smokes.

He enjoyed the process of vaping with his fellow workers at RBM Lumber, where he worked in the yard for the past six months or so.

“He wanted to blow rings with the smoke and stuff,” she recalled in a recent interview. The whole idea of vaping for him, at least, was to quite smoking and while he knew there were risks, “It was one of those situations that ‘it will never happen to me,’” Sabine Samuell recalled.

In Jude Samuell’s case, vaping, along with the infection from the cold, had made his lungs “sticky” doctors told Sabine and thus they eventually failed.

While vaping is generally considered slightly safer than smoking cigarettes, it is still not without its risks and reserachers say there’s still a lot they don’t know about how the chemicals used in vaping react with the body.

In 2019, for example, the Centers for Disease Control noted that 2,668 people were hospitalized related to e-cigarette, or vaping, products. But those cases — 82% were linked to THC vaping products with Vitamin E acetate mixed in. After the cases were widely publicized, the number of incidents dropped dramatically.

Still, the numbers and age of victims was startling — the median patient age was 24 years, and 66% were male, the CDC found.

But those cases differ from Jude Samuell’s in one key way — THC is the active ingredient in marijuana — and Sabine Samuell said he wasn’t using that — he was simply vaping flavors.

Even so, the National Institute of Health notes that vaping, even without nicotine and THC, presents risks.

“E-cigarette use exposes the lungs to a variety of chemicals, including those added to e-liquids, and other chemicals produced during the heating/vaporizing process,” the NIH noted in a recent paper. 

“A study of some e-cigarette products found the vapor contains known carcinogens and toxic chemicals, as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the device itself. The study showed that the e-liquids of certain cig-a-like brands contain high levels of nickel and chromium, which may come from the nichrome heating coils of the vaporizing device. Cig-a-likes may also contain low levels of cadmium, a toxic metal also found in cigarette smoke that can cause breathing problems and disease.”

Sabine Samuell recalled her husband as a caring person.

“He just enjoyed being with family and experiencing things alongside the people he loved,” she said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to defray some the expenses related to Jude Samuell’s treatment at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/medical-and-travel-expenses-for-jude-samuell?cdn-cache=0

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