21 Aug 2014
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Iraq Veteran and Framingham Fiancée Need Your Vote To Win A $100,000 Wedding

Planning a wedding can be stressful, but this Framingham couple is also battling health issues from when Shawn Devaney, returned home from Iraq. Since they started dating, Devaney has lost 30 percent of his lung function.

Iraq Veteran and Framingham Fiancée Need Your Vote To Win A $100,000 Wedding Iraq Veteran and Framingham Fiancée Need Your Vote To Win A $100,000 Wedding
Two and half years ago, U.S. Army Veteran Shawn Devaney met Tara Cahalane on eharmony.com.

"We hit it off right away," said Cahalane.

Devaney, who now works as a financial advisor in Wellesley, proposed to Cahalane just before Christmas 2013. 

The engaged duo, who live in a one-bedroom apartment in Framingham are planning to get married in October, but money is tight.

The couple, however, are battling more than just financial issues.

Devaney, who severed in Iraq, returned home with many hidden injuries, said Cahalane.  

He was exposed to burn pits in Iraq, that have left him with a progressive lung disease called constrictive bronchiolitis, said his fiancee.

"Since we started dating, he has lost 30 percent of his lung function," said Cahalane in a phone interview with Framingham Patch. "He can't walk up a flight of stairs without losing his breath."

The Veterans Administration originally said he had asthma and gave him an inhaler, said Cahalane. "It was more than asthma."

The couple has entered an  Internet wedding contest, in which one winner will receive a $100,000 wedding and honeymoon. There are more than 4,000 couples entered in the contest. The deadline to vote is April 15.

To vote for the Framingham couple, click here.

"Winning a paid for wedding would remove one of the many stresses we currently face on a day-to-day basis, due to his health," said Cahalane, who is employed as an IP project manager at Northeastern University. 

Devaney is not the only member of the military, who served, in Iraq with hidden medical conditions, specifically lung diseases.

Cahalane said her fiance has been seen by Dr. Robert Miller, an associate professor of allergy, pulmonary and critical care medicine at Vanderbilt University, who recommends unconventional biopsies of soliders, who served in Iraq to determine if they were exposed to airborne toxins.

Miller conducted a biopsy on Devaney and diagnosed him with  constrictive bronchiolitis, which is  narrowing of the tiniest and deepest airways of the lungs

Miller, who with his colleagues has been building evidence, testifying before Congress, and reaching out to the military to explore concerns that soldiers have been exposed to airborne toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan that leave them with potentially permanent lung damage.

The Veterans Administration has not recognized the medical conditions, said Cahalane. She told Framingham Patch she has learned that 7 out of 10 soldiers are returning with breathing issues due to burn pit exposure and there is no cure.

Miller's research and diagnoses has gained media attention,  but the U.S. Veterans Administration has yet to acknowledge the diagnosis or the potential disability.

Devaney is coughing constantly and hacking up stuff, she said. He has a lingering sickness and constant pain in his arms and his legs.

A pulmonologist has told us his condition is not improving, and if his numbers do not plateau, he will need a lung transplant, she said.

In 2013, a bill was presented to Congress to create a burn pit registry and to record and recognize all the issues related to veterans exposed and how to treat and help them, said Cahalane. Congress voted it into law but the funding for the database and everything else was removed, said Cahalane.

She said her fiance, who grew up in Rhode Island, would still love to be in the military. He served 5 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, two years in the U.S. Army and and another six years in the reserves, she said.

"If it wasn't for his health, he would still be serving," said Cahalane. "When he returned from Iraq his PT scores went from near perfect to low ratings due to his lung issues," she said. He last served in the military in 2005. 

"His health issues from Iraq, can cause challenges that most don't face day-to-day in their average relationship," said Cahalane.

"We have learned how to take pleasure in the little things and truly created a friendship and love that is strong, supporting of each other and genuine. We would love to have your vote, to give us a great wedding, one day with a few less worries and stresses that we unfortunately have learned is part of our day-to-day life. Please vote for us," wrote Cahalane on their online entry for the  Wedding of the Century contest.  

"We cherish the thought of a long future together and take each day as a gift and try to live it to the fullest," said Cahalane.

The couple is very protective of each other.

Cahalane said when she realized her fiance could no longer play hockey every morning due to his lung disease, she encouraged him to play golf, bike ride and take hikes together. 

"Shawn is my prince, for as much as I am always checking on him and his health and wanting the best for him, he is the type of guy who will drive to the Framingham train parking lot and clear off my car in a snowstorm because he knows that I will be getting home late and doesn't want me standing alone in a snowstorm at night clearing off my car," she said.

Devaney, who when he returned from Iraq got divorced,  is a "great father" too, said Cahalane.

The Framingham couple plan to look for a new place to live, as Devaney's daughter, a teenager from Connecticut, is planning to live in with them, she said.

"We try to do everything that we love together like cooking dinner, but often we just have to do it - "living" at a much slower pace then others," said Cahalane. 

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