Emma McVey, 29, who is married to Geordie Shore star Gary Beadle, 34, has opened up about her recent stint in hospital, following a “TIA (mini stroke”) – witnessed by her husband and children – in the star’s latest battle with her health.
Emma posted a picture of her in a hospital waiting room with her children, Chester and Primrose with the caption, “Not the normal favourites photo carousel but my babies are the only reason I manage to stay positive.
“For the past few days I’ve been in hospital and it’s been the worst experience of my life. It’s been hard for me, Gary, and our family. I had a TIA (mini stroke) caused by atrial fibrillation, and they saw the whole thing which breaks me.
“As most of you probably know my health isn’t the best right now and my heart is on a waiting list to be fixed. I’m not writing anything for sympathy, I just try be as open as I can because I know it helps others going through similar things in life, and to be honest speaking to others going through similar has always helped me too.
“I’ve cried so much, I’m now anxious and don’t really want to be around anyone and even more tablets to take daily. I’m trying to stay positive as I always do but I am taking a little time away from everything so if I don’t respond to messages or emails that is why ❤️.”
Husband Gaz Beadle shared the post on his own Instagram stories, adding, “To have a mini stroke be in hospital for days be released on God knows how much medication and to still come back home and be how u are with the kids you are like wonder woman and so strong… Long road ahead but after your heart surgery all be worth it ❤️.
“Just glad to have you home 💙.”
When she met her Geordie Shore star husband Gary, model and influencer Emma McVey-Beadle was a confident size 8-10 who enjoyed showing off her curves in figure-hugging clothes.
But since being diagnosed with a heart condition and the debilitating bowel disorder ulcerative colitis, she has lost weight and become the target of cruel “skinny shaming” trolls who have shockingly accused her of fabricating her illness to hide an eating disorder.
Mum-of-two Emma – who is awaiting life-saving heart surgery – tells Closer, “People judging each other on social media is an epidemic and even family members have no problem telling me I look a bit skinny. You wouldn’t tell an obese person, ‘You’re looking a bit fat’, so why is it OK to body shame someone who is underweight?”
She adds, “People on social media have messaged asking me what exercise I do and what I eat to stay so slim, but I tell them, ‘Don’t aspire to look like me. I’m like this because I’m unwell!’ Others have suggested I’m faking my health problems and wrongly assumed I have an eating disorder. They’ll tell me I look gaunt and to ‘eat a burger’.
“I feel like I’ve been reduced to a body and not a person. When I put on make-up and do my hair, people don’t realise I’m ill, but I do that to make myself feel better. I used to have a bum and chubby cheeks. Now I’m a bony size 4-6 and I’m straight up and down.”
Like many new mums, Emma – who lives near Leeds with Gaz and their children, Chester, four, and Primrose, two – lost a few extra pounds after her first pregnancy while breastfeeding and struggling with lack of sleep. She eventually stopped nursing Primrose when she noticed she had become “so thin” after cutting out dairy products to manage her daughter’s food intolerances.
Struggling with exhaustion and bouts of fainting, Emma later had a series of blood tests, which were inconclusive. Then, last February, after being fitted with a heart monitor, the star was told she needed surgery to repair three holes in her heart, a problem she has likely had since childhood.
Her troubles worsened when, three weeks before her Cheshire wedding to Gary last June, she began suffering abdominal cramps and rectal bleeding. She kept her symptoms quiet until a few weeks later when her health deteriorated and she became too weak to stand. Emma was eventually diagnosed with colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which causes ulcers in the digestive tract – a condition that affects roughly one in 420 people in the UK, including her father Carl, 53 – and is treated with medication including steroids.
Although she ordinarily eats “plenty” – including cereal, toast or porridge for breakfast, a banana mid morning, a sandwich or chicken and rice for lunch, sweets and chocolate treats after dinner plus meal replacement shakes for extra calories – during a colitis episode, the weight will “drop straight off”. Spicy, greasy, dairy and high-fibre foods all contribute to flare-ups.
Speaking about the impact of her health woes over the past 12 months, Emma admits, “I feel like my life’s been tipped upside down in the space of a year. I’ve just started therapy to try to deal with the emotional impact of the condition. I know that soon my heart will be sorted, which will give me more energy, and I hope to go into full remission with the colitis and one day be more stable. Right now though, it’s hard to see a way out of it.”
Since bravely going public with her colitis, which she says initially made her feel “embarrassed and awkward”, Emma has been touched by the outpouring of support over social media, though she admits she sometimes struggles to ignore trolls who criticise her for being too thin. “I’m quick to block people but I’ve bitten back sometimes,” says Emma. “Gary has stuck up for me before but, I have to say, the best thing is to ignore it.”
Emma recalls previously being overlooked for modelling jobs because of her size and says thin people should not be outcast from the body positivity movement.
“I know brands don’t want people looking up to skinny people, especially young girls but, at the same time, it’s unfair for people who can’t help being skinny to be excluded,” she says. “Everything’s so diverse and advertising campaigns will use all sizes and backgrounds but you’ll never really see a skinny person on there.”
To aid her recovery, Emma must get her colitis under control before having heart surgery. Doctors have also said she and Gary cannot have a third child until her heart is repaired.
Meanwhile, she’s doing her best to take her mind off things and is planning her first anniversary celebrations with Gary. “He asks me to go out for dinner all the time and I’m always so tired,” says Emma. “I feel bad because he’s missing out because of my health problems so it’ll be nice to celebrate together with an evening out – like the old days!”
How to control symptoms
Keep a food diary
Writing down the meals you eat can be helpful, you should be able to identify problem foods and eliminate them from your diet.
Coping with ulcerative colitis can be hard to deal with and isolating, speaking to others with the condition plus those close to you about your symptoms can help.
Although stress doesn’t cause ulcerative colitis, managing stress levels may reduce the frequency of symptoms. Regular exercise can boost mood, whereas breathing exercises, meditation and yoga can help you to relax.