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'I almost died': Uvalde man has a warning after being hospitalized for vape-related illness

The South Texas Poison Center confirms they are looking at several cases of vape related illnesses in the San Antonio area.

UVALDE, Texas — Back on his South Texas ranch in Uvalde, it's hard for Colten Hubbell and his mother to believe just how bad things got.

"Look how skinny you are," Hubbell's mother, Amy McCall, said. 

"My face," Hubbell responded as he stared at a photo of himself lying on a hospital bed. 

It's a bed Hubbell wasn't sure if he'd ever leave. After all, he wasn't sure if he was even going to live. 

"I was going downhill really fast," he said as he began to hold back tears. 

Hubbell said he was an avid vaper for two to three years, after his mom suggested it as a way to stop using chewing tobacco.

"I didn't think anything of it," McCall said. "I just thought it was a safe alternative." 

Now doctors are seeing that may not be the case. Hubbell's story is one of hundreds over the last few weeks of young healthy people suddenly getting sick from vaping-related issues. 

The South Texas Poison Center confirms they are looking at several cases of vape related illnesses in the San Antonio area.

"I'd wake up in the morning and I couldn't eat," Hubbell recalled. 

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The 22-year-old went to University Hospital last month with a fever and some stomach issues, but in just a matter of days his condition began to deteriorate. 

His family made the decision to transfer him to Cleveland Clinic for faster answers.

"You're looking at your kid in a hospital bed can't breath can't figure out what's wrong with you," McCall said. "It most likely was attributed to vaping." 

Doctors gave Hubbell steroids on the way to Ohio and, in a matter of minutes, his breathing improved. He said his doctors diagnosed him with organized pneumonia caused by vaping and said a full recovery would likely take six months. 

"I was hoping that I wasn't going to die. I was really thankful for my mom and girlfriend because they were right there next to me the whole time," he said as he broke down in tears. 

It's a journey that has taken an emotional toll on the Uvalde man, and one that has left more questions than answers. 

"They don't know where it comes from, they don't know exactly what it is that's causing it," his mom emphasized. 

"If we knew the answer then we could solve the problem," Dr. Shawn Varney told KENS 5. 

Varney is the director of the South Texas Poison Center and an ER doctor at University Hospital. He tells KENS 5 the hospital has seen at least three to four vape-related cases in the last few weeks, but suggests there are likely more.

"We don't have a clear picture of how expansive this problem really is, but I can guarantee you it'll continue to get worse before it gets better," Varney said. 

Which is why he and survivors like Hubbell have one piece of advice for those who pick up a vape pen.

"Stop," Hubbell said. "I know it's hard to stop. It's just not worth it. I almost died and, if we hadn't gone to Cleveland, I probably would have died." 

The South Texas Poison Center tells KENS 5 if any viewers feel like they may have a vape related illness they urge them to seek medical attention and call the Poison Center at  1-800-222-1222 to relay your case.