A 17-year-old Nevada boy was seriously injured when the vaping pen his mother had bought him exploded in his face.
The teen’s injuries were so gruesome that the doctors treating him submitted the case to the New England Journal of Medicine in the hopes of spreading awareness of the dangers of the devices.
The boy, identified as only ‘Austin’ suffered injuries that resembled those from a high-speed motor vehicle crash or a gunshot wound.
“When the 17-year-old arrived at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, his entire jaw was cracked and a chunk of the bone had been completely shattered.
“Several of his teeth were missing and there was a hole in his chin.”
Doctors have seen this degree damage before, but certainly not from smoking a supposedly-innocuous vaping pen.
"That's an injury we see in high-speed motor vehicle crashes," Katie W. Russell, a pediatric surgeon who treated the teenager in March last year, told The Washington Post.
"It's a big injury."
Jonathan Skirko, a pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon who operated on the boy, told The Post the damage looked “kind of like a close-range gunshot wound.”
What started out as a way to make Austin’s life better, nearly stole it away.
According to the teen’s mom, Kailani Burton, “The vape pen was supposed to improve Austin’s life.
“He had asked her for it last year because he thought it could help him quit smoking.”
Mrs. Burton finally went along with her son’s urgings - once he assured her that he had done ample research into the safest one to buy. So she bought one from the VGOD company.
Yet, Burton’s worries remained. She had heard about e-cigarettes exploding and she couldn’t shake the feeling that her son was in danger.
Then, about a month after getting the device, her worst nightmare came true.
Burton had just returned home from work when she heard a loud “pop.” The blood-curdling sound of her son’s screams.
Her son burst into her room in a panic.
“He was screaming, ‘It blew up! It blew up!’
“I could see blood in his mouth and a hole in his chin,” Burton said.
Austin’s mom rushed him to a local hospital where medical staff was stunned to learn the origins of his severe wounds.
“He had a very swollen lower jaw and lip, a small burn on his lip and a huge cut in his mouth,” said Russell. “A two-centimeter piece of his jaw was just blown to pieces.”
“I’ve dealt with lots of facial trauma . . . and dealt with some really kind of exotic things like grizzly bear attacks and things like that, but this is one that I had never seen before,” he said.
Unfortunately, injuries like Austin’s are on the rise, and officials say it is in relation to the dramatic rise in the use of e-cigarettes.
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says 3.62 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2018, a noted 78 percent increase among high school students from 2017, and 48 percent increase among middle schoolers.”
Explosions such as the one Austin experienced may be rare, but they are completely devastating when they occur. Experts are not certain what causes the explosions, but they have a hunch.
“Some evidence suggests that battery-related issues may lead to vape explosions.” The FDA urges consumers to learn as much as possible about safety when handling e-cigarette batteries.
For Austin, doctors say he should make a complete recovery from his ordeal, but it has been a painful journey.
Since his injury, Austin has sworn off smoking and vaping, his mother said.
“He just quit,” Burton said. “He does tell people, ‘This is what happened to me. This is what could happen.’ ”