NASHVILLE, TENN. (WTVF) — Cory Smallwood met Evhen Cameron on Tinder. Despite the skepticism associated with online dating, she says the two had a strong connection - happily dating for seven months. They met in their native Minneapolis, but Cameron longed to launch his music career, leaving behind the Twin Cities in August.
"Evhen really wanted to get to Nashville so that he could be closer to the music scene there because there's so much going on in Nashville for musicians," Smallwood said.
She also revealed Cameron battled anxiety and turned to vaping to curb side effects associated with his medication. She says he began vaping in July, purchasing cartridges filled with THC or CBD from dispensaries or people he trusted. She also said she noticed a positive change the vaping had on those often debilitating side effects.
"He ended up deciding he wanted to try the cartridge because he thought it would be better for his voice," Smallwood said. "He didn't want to hurt his singing voice."
Smallwood said Cameron began feeling ill in September with symptoms similar to the flu. The sudden onset caught family and friends off guard, she said.
"He never coughed from it, never seemed sick from it." Smallwood said. "He just one day started feeling sick out of nowhere."
She said he ended up in the hospital for a week, but thought he was on the road to recovery.
"Doctors thought he was getting better, they thought he was going to recover from his lung injury, " Smallwood said, adding that Cameron received a chemical burn on his lungs from vaping. "We were all very confident he was going to be just fine," Smallwood said. "He was looking a lot better, he was eating, he was able to keep his food down, he was getting his energy back."
But the 26-year-old's health took a turn for the worst. She said shortly after being released from the hospital, he started having trouble breathing and passed away October 12. Smallwood was at his bedside along with other family members. Now, hoping to heal from her grief, she wants to warn others about the risks associated with vaping.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there have been two confirmed deaths resulting from vaping, with more than 50 reported cases of suspected respiratory illness across the state. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control reports 34 people have died from vaping-related illnesses.
Bottom line, Smallwood warned, "Stay away from the vapes. We thought it was safe, but it wasn't."