By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Instead of starting his senior year at Augsburg University, 21-year-old Elijah McClure is in the ICU at North Memorial Hospital battling an acute lung disease that may be linked to vaping nicotine.

Sedric McClure, Elijah’s father, spoke with WCCO on Tuesday saying doctors told him the lung disease was not caused by an infection, rather something Elijah ingested. McClure believes it was caused by a habit their son started when he was 17.

“When we discovered that he was vaping about four years ago, we took the zero tolerance policy,” said McClure. “He just took it underground and kept it from our sight.”

McClure said his son first felt sick on Aug. 22 when he went to opening day of the state fair. He’s been in the ICU for the last 11 days, relying on a ventilator 24/7 to breathe.

“To see this otherwise gregarious, energetic, active, nocturnal bat, be resigned to a bed and relying on a machine to breathe…rocked our world,” said McClure.

After Elijah went to the emergency room, McClure found vials with nicotine in them that Elijah was using to vape.

“It’s certainly a myth that it’s a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes,” said McClure. “It simply is not a good idea to put moisture in your lungs.”

The Minnesota Department of Health says there are 22 confirmed cases of vaping that lead to hospitalization and 13 other cases that are under review.

McClure is now making this situation a platform for advocacy for other parents.

“I would say to parents to continue to talk to your young people, your children,” said McClure, who said he did not keep an open dialogue with his son about the health impacts of vaping. He also suggests getting informed about the risks.

Doctors told McClure that his son will survive, making this a lesson instead of loss.

“Let them go through those experiences and then with those experiences, once you reflect on them, becomes wisdom,” said McClure.

U.S. health officials said Friday that they’re now investigating more than 450 cases of possible vaping-related illnesses in 33 states.

Marielle Mohs