Jonathan Doneson weighed 248 pounds in 2017 with high cholesterol and decided to change his lifestyle.
He began working out and watching his diet, and he managed to lose 50 pounds. But his health quickly deteriorated after he picked up the new habit.
He noticed that he wasn't feeling well and was weak, in pain, and perspiring profusely. By August, his doctor told him it was time to go to the emergency room.
The 52-year-old from Roslyn Heights was admitted to North Shore University Hospital with pneumonia, but his doctors found he was not responding to the normal course of antibiotics.
His temperature at one point was over 103 degrees, and his wife was told that he might not survive. He was tested for a long list of illnesses from tuberculosis to Legionnaires Disease, all with negative results, and his doctors were running out of options.
"I thought the Grim Reaper was laying in the bed next to me, to be honest," he said. "Yeah, I thought I was done."
At this point, pulmonologist Dr. Mina Makaryus discovered that Doneson had been a heavy user of black market vaping pens that contain THC.
Doneson admitted that he had been vaping up to six times a day for three months, and suddenly, his symptoms began to make sense.
"As we clarified the history of when he had started vaping and when his symptoms have started, there was clearly an association between vaping initiation and his symptoms onset," Dr. Makaryus said.
The doctor then designed a cocktail of antibiotics and steroids that put Doneson on the road to recovery.
Doneson was released after being hospitalized for five days, and he Doneson returned to North Shore Thursday to thank Dr. Makaryus and to urge the public to heed recent warnings about the dangers of THC vaping.
"My message to the to the world, to the country, to everybody is get rid of it," he said. "It's not the alternative. I almost died."
Watch the press conference:
The potential risks of vaping are only beginning to emerge, and hundreds have suffered from vaping-related illnesses nationwide.
"They can cause respiratory failure, having to be on a ventilator," Dr. Annamaria Iakovou said. "And as you've seen, already six patients have died from that. So it's a big deal."
To date, the Centers for Disease Control is probing 450 cases across 33 states that experts believe are related to vaping.
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