A teenage boy whose lungs were damaged by vaping is on the mend after a life-saving surgery. Now he’s speaking out and warning other teens to stop vaping.
“It started off just whenever I’d be with my friends,” Ament told “Good Morning America.” “On the weekends, like hanging out. I would just hit those.”
Ament said he began vaping in December of 2018, using the popular flavored cartridges and occasional THC pods, and would even take hits of the e-cigarettes at lunch with friends.
In early September of 2019, Ament said he started feeling ill.
“I had a really bad headache,” he said. “That was my main thing. And I just felt really sick.”
His mom, Tammy, who talks to her kids about the dangers of vaping, had a hunch that his sickness was vaping-related.
Tammy recalled the moment that she was driving him to the hospital.
“On the way to the hospital, I said, 'Are we still going with the fact that you’ve never vaped or that you don’t vape?' And he said, 'Maybe this summer.'”
“It’s really frustrating,” she added. “I know that the kids. I think they cover for each other.”
Ament came clean about his vaping habits when he was finally admitted to the hospital, and there his ability to breathe rapidly declined.
The 17-year-old was put on life support for 29 days and doctors told his family that death was imminent.
“That still hasn’t processed,” said Ament. “I don’t remember it, it’s really hard to believe that that happened. But the doctors told me -- everyone’s told me that one day they said he has a ten percent chance to live. And I can't imagine what my friends and family were thinking.”
Ament ended up receiving a double lung transplant to save his life, and was given a second chance.
Across the country, over 2,700 people have been hospitalized due to vaping-related illnesses and 60 have died in just the last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of the deaths have been linked to THC and a chemical called vitamin E acetate, but experts are still unsure of the cause.
Now, Ament is grappling with how vaping changed his life forever.
“It just didn’t make sense,” said Ament. “Why didn’t it happen to other people that had been vaping for years? Why didn’t it happen to someone else close to me … how did the chemicals affect me and not them? That doesn’t make sense.”
Today, Ament takes over 20 medications each day and has to wear a mask in public for at least a year. And his lifelong dream of being a Navy Seal won’t happen because of the choices he made.
“It sucks that the opportunities that I would have had before, like going into military training for special forces, was something I wanted to do since I was 11," he said. "But I can’t do that anymore."
Ament is now advocating for teens to stop vaping with a nonprofit that he launched that gives teens the opportunity to talk honestly about their vaping addiction.
“I want to make the most out of [being given a second chance] and make sure no one else makes the same mistakes I did,” he said.