BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — Elijah McClure doesn’t remember much of anything from the 12 days in late August and early September that he spent on a ventilator, fighting vaping-related severe lung injury.
But he’ll never forget how it impacted his parents, Sedric and Tami McClure. He’s spent several nights talking to them about it around the dinner table of their Brooklyn Park home.
"The doctor, point blank, said that, at this point, there's nothing we can do,” said Sedric McClure, Elijah’s father.
"That was probably the hardest thing,” said Tami McClure, Elijah’s mother. “I'm grabbing your hand and... you're not responding."
It wasn't until he left the hospital that the 22 year old realized his battle with severe lung injury had become national news. His parents first shared his story with KARE11. Within days, his photos from the ICU were on a national newscast and several international publications.
"It's just a realization of what I put myself through and what I put you guys through,” Elijah said. “It really gets to me.”
Luckily the physical impact no longer gets to him. Less than two months after leaving the hospital, Elijah says he has no apparent scarring in his lungs.
Kent Erdahl: "Have you noticed any impact on your lungs?"
Elijah McClure: "Actually, I haven't. My lungs feel back to normal, which is amazing."
Kent Erdahl: "What did your doctor tell you about how serious it was?"
Elijah McClure: "It was a couple days while I was in there that they didn't know if I would make it or not."
At the time he was hospitalized, Elijah was one of about 450 cases nationally reported by the CDC. As of the end of October, there are nearly 1,900 cases and 37 deaths.
Kent Erdahl: "Predominantly, in these cases, patients have reported using off-market/illegal THC cartridges, or 'carts'. Does that apply to you?"
Elijah McClure: "I was using two forms of vaping, yes, 'carts' and e-cig.”
Elijah says he started vaping nicotine at the age of 15, and began mixing in THC “carts” more in the last couple years. He says parents should know just how popular the Illegal products have exploded in popularity.
Elijah McClure: “Parents, don't be oblivious to the fact that your kids may try something out there. Carts… vapes… regardless, it's on the rise. They're not very hard to find if you're looking for one."
Elijah has already shared his perspective, and the vaping products he used with the FDA, in hopes of helping the search for a cause of the lung injury cases. In the meantime, he says he’s discovered his cause: helping others avoid the same mistake.
Elijah McClure: "If I can help people to not get to that state, of course I will speak every day, every minute that I can.”