Alex Halliwill was 19, athletic, healthy … and convinced he was about to die.

As WWJ News reports, on Saturday, Alex drank a Mountain Dew and was well into his second Red Bull of the day when his heart started racing. His mother, Sue, told WWJ the symptoms got so bad that Alex had trouble breathing and needed to go to the hospital:

“He felt like he was choking, couldn’t breathe, went into a full-blown panic attack, and they ended up calling an ambulance. He thought he was having a heart attack.”

As they sped toward the hospital, the teen was sure that he was dying. Sue told WWJ:

“He told me yesterday that all the way into the hospital he thought, ‘This is it, I’m going to die,’ and he was questioning, ‘What’s going to happen when I die? Where do I go?'”

Alex’s worries were not misplaced. As his mom wrote on Facebook, his blood pressure had skyrocketed to 200/170. According to the American Heart Association, a blood pressure reading that high qualifies as a “hypertensive crisis” requiring immediate medical help.

At the hospital, Alex learned that the high amounts of caffeine he’d consumed nearly damaged his heart. Sue told WWJ that it was a wake-up call about the damage of energy drinks:

“The tests showed because of the high levels of caffeine, his troponin levels, enzymes in his heart, were elevated. And that can cause severe heart problem.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, a troponin test measures the proteins in the blood that are released when the heart has been damaged, as would be the case during a heart attack. The higher the troponin levels, the more damage there is.

Alex’s elevated troponin levels meant that he had to spend a day and a half under observation in the hospital. While he escaped serious damage this time, he will have to carefully watch his caffeine intake from now on.

As his mother wrote on Facebook, the stress put on Alex’s heart means that more Red Bulls could cause real heart problems:

It doesn’t appear to have any permanent damage to his heart. He will have to stay away from ALL energy drinks and watch his caffeine intake as continued elevation to his troponin enzymes will cause damage to his heart.

Sue told WWJ getting the phone call that her son was on the way to the hospital with heart problems was her “worst nightmare.”

That’s why she’s wants others to know the dangers that energy drinks and high amounts of caffeine pose — even to the young and healthy. As she wrote on Facebook:

“STOP drinking this crap! It can kill you! Please say some prayers for my family. We thank GOD that Alex is going to be okay.”

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