Update: Ricky D’Ambrosio's mother tells FOX40 he is home from the hospital.
ROSEVILLE -- Lying in a hospital bed, paralyzed in a medically induced coma, Ricky D’Ambrosio is struggling to stay alive.
“As a parent, you always want to help your children and I feel very helpless. There’s nothing I can do,” his mother, Christy, told FOX40. “Just sit there and hold his hand, that’s it at this point. I don’t wish this upon anybody.”
Christy says her 21-year-old son is in respiratory failure and doctors tell their family vaping may be to blame.
“If it was an infection he would have responded positively to the antibiotics and it's not, he's not. He’s actually gone down a little bit,” said Ricky's sister, Caity.
And Ricky is not alone.
Across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating at least 215 respiratory illnesses like Ricky’s that can't be treated through antibiotics.
It's popping up in otherwise healthy young adults after they vaped, often starting with flu-like symptoms that they can’t seem to shake.
“He just kept throwing up. He had been throwing up for like five days,” Christy said. “He had fevers off and on. He had the chills and the sweats, chest pains.”
It’s unclear what exactly is causing the sickness, just that the only link is vaping.
Since it’s a relatively new industry, little research is out there on its health effects.
“They have no idea why. No one has any answers. We have all these questions,” Caity said.
The D’Ambrosio family is pushing for more research to understand what exactly is causing this epidemic and how to treat it.
Ricky’s life depends on it.
“(We’re hoping) he sits up and he fights and he comes back. That’s what we want,” she said.
As they pray for his recovery, they find comfort in offering advice for other families.
“Be that parent. Who cares if your child gets mad at you?” Christy said. “ Go through their stuff. Try and find anything if you suspect anything, just go do it. Wouldn’t you rather have your kid mad at you and help to save their life?”
The Placer County Department of Public Health is investigating the case. It's unclear whether Ricky was vaping tobacco or cannabis, or for how long.