Northern Ireland

Mum warns of vaping dangers after daughter (12) placed in induced coma

Sarah, pictured, and her mum Mary Griffin are raising awareness about the dangers of vaping
Sarah, pictured, and her mum Mary Griffin are raising awareness about the dangers of vaping

A Belfast mother has spoken out about the dangers of vaping after her 12-year-old daughter was admitted to intensive care.

Mary Griffin said it was "a nightmare come true" as Sarah was placed in an induced coma after taking ill from using vapes.

She is speaking out about their terrifying experience in a bid to support a new vaping awareness campaign by the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS).

The charity said it is particularly concerned about the number of young people choosing to vape and the misconceptions often associated with vaping.

Ms Griffin said Sarah, who has asthma, was rushed to hospital after taking unwell.

"There were medical staff all around her assessing her and they said she needed to go to ICU as she was deteriorating very quickly," she said.

Doctors said one of Sarah's lungs was damaged and the other was "working overtime and aggravating her asthma".

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Mary Griffin and her daughter Sarah
Mary Griffin and her daughter Sarah

"Sarah also had an infection, so everything combined had a massive impact on her body, extremely quickly," she said.

“When we got to ICU the team worked on Sarah for four-and-a-half hours before having to put her into an induced coma.

"There were tubes, wires, and machines everywhere - it was heart-breaking to see her like that.

“As her mum I just felt so helpless - it was a nightmare come true."

Sarah was admitted to intensive care
Sarah was admitted to intensive care

Ms Griffin said "at first, we really didn’t think Sarah would make it".

“The doctors explained that if Sarah hadn’t been vaping, she would have been in a better position to fight off the infection," she said.

"Vaping had left her lungs very weak. The doctors said if Sarah had of got to hospital any later the outcome would have been entirely different.

"That is something I can’t even think about."

Sarah is recovering at home, but has been left with long-term side-effects.

“For the rest of her life Sarah will be classed as a high-risk patient if she is admitted to hospital because of the effect this has had on her physically," said Ms Griffin.

"She is usually full of energy, constantly talking and on the go, but she is still recovering and isn’t back to her usual self yet.

"The mental impact has been as big as the physical impact.

"She has been through such a trauma. She still has a long road ahead of her, but we are just so grateful to have her back home with us.”

Adding her support for the campaign, Ms Griffin said: “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.

"I have seen children as young as seven and eight vaping, which is just horrendous.

“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.

“We want other young people to see the potential impact vaping can have as it will hopefully make them think twice about doing it."

Fidelma Carter from NICHS said the "biggest misunderstanding about vapes is that they are harmless compared to cigarettes".

"This is not true, and this message needs to change to prevent more young people from taking up and getting addicted to vaping because they think they are risk free," she said.

"The long-term health implications are unknown - just as they once were with tobacco.

"We have launched our vaping awareness campaign in response to the misunderstandings around the potential health risks associated with vaping and the huge increase in the number of teenagers using vapes."

She said the charity is also campaigning to increase the age of sale for vapes from 18 to 21.