Wake up, go to school, do homework, go to bed. This, more or less, is the outline of a typical teen’s day, albeit without the little nuances that make adolescence the best (and sometimes the worst). We may not understand how kids spend so much time on their phones, or how they can binge every season of a TV show without getting out of bed, but ultimately it’s all just harmless fun… right?
But some teenage hobbies are actually way more dangerous than they appear. It’s easy to think you’re invincible when you’re young, but after a seemingly innocent habit brought her to the brink of death, one teen is now speaking out — and her words may just save your life.
Of course, if you told Utah native Maddie Nelson that 2019 wasn’t going to be her best year yet, she would’ve laughed you off. After all, she was happy, healthy, beautiful and popular at school — what could possibly go wrong?
Maddie Nelson / Facebook
But just a few months into the new year, Maddie began to feel that something wasn’t right. She experienced frequent bouts of nausea, and by the summer, she could feel an intense pain radiating through her chest, back, and kidneys.
Then, on July 27, things came to a head after Maddie spiked a fever well into the triple digits. She was rushed to a hospital in nearby Payson for care, though even under the watchful eye of the facility’s top doctors, her condition only continued to worsen.
Paul Sableman / Flickr
Maddie was now having trouble breathing, and her fever had climbed so high that she was struggling to remain conscious. Minutes turned to hours, hours into days, and before Maddie knew it, she’d been in the hospital for nearly a week — without improvement.
Maddie Nelson / Facebook
Doctors initially believed Maddie may have contracted Lyme disease or even West Nile virus. Though with treatment doing little to help, they knew they were dealing with something much bigger here. If Maddie didn’t get the proper care — and fast — things threatened to turn fatal.
Maddie Nelson / Facebook
And so, the 18-year-old was rushed to yet another medical facility, this time receiving scans of her chest immediately upon arrival. Maddie and her family hoped for the best. Instead, her results were some of the worst her doctors had ever seen.
Both of Maddie’s lungs were severely damaged, their soft membranes covered with fat particles and rapidly filling with fluid. The teen’s health was truly failing fast, leaving her doctors with only one option left to take.
American Cancer Society
With her parents’ consent, Maddie was placed into a medically induced coma while her doctors scrambled to get to the bottom of her sudden decline. None of them had ever seen a case quite this serious, though after running a series of tests, they finally came to an unsettling realization.
Andrea Fullmer / GoFundMe
Maddie was suffering from acute eosinophilic pneumonia, a rare lung illness that’s just as difficult to treat as it is to get. But Maddie was a fighter, and after being placed on a steroid regiment, her condition finally began to show signs of improvement.
Andrea Fullmer / GoFundMe
Then, to the relief of friends and family, Maddie opened her eyes after three days comatose. Her recovery had been a miraculous one, though even after leaving the hospital, the effects of her ordeal still lingered.
Maddie Nelson / Facebook
“My muscles were so atrophied [that] I had to learn to walk all over again, and I couldn’t eat while I was in the hospital,” Maddie explained to KTVX news station. “I lost 30 pounds while I was here.”
ckrisstine / Instagram
Not only that, but she continued to experience intense chest pains and even needed an oxygen machine to help her breathe at night. Yet while doctors were left scratching their heads over how this seemingly average 18-year-old contracted such a rare illness, Maddie had known why all along…
Rain Nightcoat / Flickr
Vaping. While initially billed as a “healthier” alternative to tobacco and other nicotine products, vapes and e-cigarettes present their own unique risks, many of which pose long-term effects that most people aren’t aware of — until it’s too late.
Like most teens, Maddie began vaping with her friends in high school, at first smoking without nicotine. Eventually, she graduated to vape juices containing three milligrams of the toxic substance and convinced herself this kind of smoking was nothing like puffing cigarettes.
Maddie Nelson / Facebook
“I thought vaping was fine. I did all the tricks all the time. I used all sorts of different products, like, from all sorts of vape shops across Utah county,” Maddie admitted. Unfortunately, this mindset let directly to the development of her rare form of pneumonia.
Maddie Nelson / Facebook
It was the glycerin in the juice that resulted in the formation of the fat particles in her lungs. “When you inhale, the moisture is creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow inside your lungs and for infection to start,” Maddie added.
thehookupcs / Reddit
Unsurprisingly, Maddie’s near-death experience left her swearing off vaping and all other forms of smoking for good. Yet not only has she pledged to look out for herself: she’s also determined to help others.
Mike Mozart / Flickr
Shortly after her ordeal, Maddie began sharing photos of her time in the hospital, making sure to include each and every heartbreaking moment in the hope of educating both teens and adults on the very real repercussions of vaping. Other teens, like Simah Herman, below, echoed her message.
“I am sharing my story so you all are aware that there is something crazy in these pens that is not safe and almost cost me my life,” Maddie wrote on Facebook. “To anyone who thinks vape is a safe alternative to smoking, you are wrong.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a regular vape or special pen or Juul… I used to just tell myself it won’t happen to me, but it can and will happen to you, too… Take my advice: don’t smoke, don’t vape.”
John Daley / CPR News
Unfortunately, there are still other everyday habits that are inadvertently threatening our health — just ask Oregon native Paul Karason. Paul was trying to get healthy: he tried diets, occasionally worked out, and watched what he ate. But, one method in particular caught his eye in a magazine.
He was flipping through a new-age magazine and stopped on an advertisement for colloidal silver. The silver was said to provide rejuvenating health benefits, and once Paul read that, he was intrigued.
After doing some light research, he did learn prolonged exposure to chemical compounds like silver could have an effect on skin color, but that didn’t deter him. He ordered a colloidal silver-making kit almost immediately.
Once the kit arrived, he made a home brew of silver particles suspended in water, and he began consuming a lot of it. For quite some time, he was gulping down about 10 ounces a day!
Within the first few months, Paul noticed super positive changes to his health. His acid reflux nearly completely disappeared, as did the arthritis plaguing his shoulder. But, everything changed one afternoon when a friend came to visit.
After answering the door, Paul’s friend, “looks at me and he says, ‘What have you got on your face? it looks like you’ve got camouflage makeup on or something.'” So, Paul glanced in the mirror and gasped.
His face was blue! Paul stared in disbelief at his tainted skin, with his friend also looking on in bewilderment. It didn’t take long for the media to pick up this bizarre incident, either.
Paul made his rounds on various morning talk shows, and he was even featured on an episode of Dr. Oz discussing how the silver supplement he ingested had an adverse effect. It didn’t stop him from finding love, however.
At age 57, Paul began a seven-month telephone romance with a woman named Jackie Northup. When they finally met in person, Jackie said, “I kind of went, ‘Oh my God!’ But I was already in love with the man.”
So, what the heck exactly happened to Paul? According to Dr. Vincent DeLeo, “Paul turned blue because he ingested elemental silver. It got into his blood stream and those particles through the skin appear to be gray or blue/gray.”
The term for the color-altering ailment is argyria, and it’s permanent. Long ago, colloidal silver was actually sold as a common remedy for colds and allergies, and that’s exactly how another woman suffered the same fate as Paul.
New York resident Rosemary Jacobs was prescribed colloidal silver when she was only 11 years old. In an attempt to alleviate a stuffy nose, her doctor wrote a prescription for nose drops she used for about three years.
Unlike Paul, Rosemary attempted to rid the blue color through various ways, but nothing worked. Dermabrasion caused spotty pink patches, and no makeup was able to efficiently cover up the dermabrasion damage.
People need to trust Dr. Deleo’s informed opinion about the chemical. “The FDA has looked at it a long time ago and decided that there is no medical reason for taking colloidal silver. Don’t use it!”
It’s hard to believe at one point in Paul’s life he was a redhead with orange freckles and fair skin. After the colloidal silver debacle, he closely resembled Papa Smurf. Funny enough, he wasn’t the only famous blue human.
The Fugate family of Kentucky passed down a recessive gene through generations that caused a blue tint in the skin. However, that particular disorder is different than Paul’s and rarely exists anymore.
Sadly, after living many years as a blue guy, Paul passed away at the age of 62. Despite his bizarre appearance, he actually had a pretty good attitude about the whole thing.
Paul Karason never could have predicted he’d be known as “the man who turned blue.” But his experiment gone wrong should have been a warning for others like David Hahn who also had to learn the hard way about messing around with chemical compounds.
Michigan’s David Hahn might have seemed like an average kid, but in fact, his mind was unlike most of his peers’. He was obsessed with scientific experimentation and it would eventually lead to some very dangerous situations.
David’s passion came about when he was 10 years old and his grandfather gifted him a chemistry book. David was enthralled by its contents and he began dabbling with experimentation himself.
David wanted his experiments to be the real thing, not the kind of simple stuff he did during his grade school science classes. So, he bought beakers, bunsen burners, test tubes, and a plethora of other professional lab equipment. He was determined to teach himself the ins and outs of chemical reactions regardless of the potential hazards.
David was also heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, and he would frequently share his dangerous experiments with his fellow troopers. He actually blew a hole in his tent while camping one night using a personal stockpile of magnesium. David’s experiments were getting dangerous, but nothing prepared his family and his town for what would eventually occur…
You’d think most parents by this time would have taken away their child’s lab equipment after learning they were mishandling hazardous chemicals, but not David’s parents. To them, the small explosions and chemical spills were simply the results of a curious mind. However, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
David’s parents did force him to move his lab setup to their basement. They thought the move would hinder David’s enthusiasm, it did just the opposite; now their son had more room and privacy to conduct his dangerous experiments.
It didn’t take long before David caused an explosion using red phosphorous in the basement. David’s parents must have put a firm stop to his activities at this point, right? Nope. David simply moved his lab into a shed behind his house. Now he had the space to cause some serious problems…
David was fascinated by radioactivity, and now that he had an entire shed to himself, he planned to build something that would eventually send his entire town into a panic…
He wanted to build his own nuclear reactor! Now, this might sound completely insane (and it was) but to David, it was completely doable. All he needed was a way to obtain the radioactive materials to start his new project.
In 1994, when David was only 17, he posed as an adult scientist and began writing letters and making phone calls to places like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the American Nuclear Society inquiring about the materials he would need for his reactor. Unbelievably, no one ever asked about his credentials and David was able to learn exactly how to obtain and isolate radioactive isotopes. With that information, he could begin building his reactor.
David dismantled smoke detectors to obtain the chemical americium; he also obtained radium through antique luminous clocks and thorium from gas lanterns. He even spent $1,000 on lithium batteries to obtain that particular chemical, as well. He was quickly gathering everything he needed for his reactor. But, would it actually end up working?
Using all of the chemicals he obtained from basic household items, he was able to build a makeshift reactor core. Unbeknownst to everyone in his neighborhood, including his parents, there was a highly dangerous nuclear reactor sitting in his backyard shed. However, it wouldn’t be too long until the entire community knew about it…
Because David had zero experience working with nuclear energy, the level of radiation emitted by his reactor rose to dangerous levels. Using a Geiger counter, David was soon able to detect high levels of radiation five houses away from his shed. Luckily, he recognized his experiment was completely out of control and decided to shut the whole thing down. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be that easy.
David dismantled his reactor late one night and began loading it into the trunk of his car. He was trying to be as discreet as possible, but he was spotted by neighbors who called the cops, thinking he was stealing tires. When the police arrived, however, it wasn’t tires they found, but something much more terrifying.
The police initially thought David had an atomic bomb in his trunk! The bomb squad was called in, and to everyone’s relief, they were wrong. However, the team measured 1,000 times the amount of radiation that was considered safe! This triggered the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan. Then… all hell broke loose!
Because the shed wasn’t a federally recognized nuclear site, it took the Environmental Protection Agency nearly two months to begin their investigation. Eventually, when workers did examine its contents, they were stunned at what they found…
According to a memo written by the EPA, the chemicals in David’s lab presented an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health, welfare, and environment. There was also dangerous exposure to the nearby human population, animals, and the food chain. Needless to say, the people who lived in David’s community were not only outraged, they were now worried about their own health.
According to the EPA’s official assessment, David’s experiment with the nuclear reactor exposed 40,000 people to dangerous cancer-causing levels of radiation and cost $60,000 to clean up! This chaotic ordeal was how David earned the nickname “Radioactive Boy Scout.”
In 1995, one year after David’s nuclear reactor debacle sent shock waves through his town, the EPA offered to give David a full examination to see how much radiation he was exposed to, but David refused, fearful of what he might learn. David struggled in life as time went on. He joined the army where he served for several years but battled drug and alcohol addiction.
David’s obsession with chemistry certainly caused an uproar in his community. Even after the nuclear reactor incident, his passion for science didn’t diminish. In fact, he dreamed of building a light bulb that could glow for 100 years. Some people never learn!
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