Woman, 25, whose ‘stomach exploded’ because of Crohn’s disease gets engaged to her ‘soulmate’ and fellow sufferer, 30, after they met on a Facebook support group
- Chloe Meade and Rhys Thomas connected over social media in 2015
- Met two years later after bumping into each other at a hospital in Cardiff
- Mr Thomas popped the question last Saturday during a trip to Amsterdam
A woman whose ‘stomach exploded’ because of Crohn’s disease is now engaged to a fellow sufferer she met on a Facebook support group.
Chloe Meade, 25, was left with a 20cm (7.8 inch) scar down her abdomen after she developed an infected abscess in January 2015. Less than three months later, the scar burst, leaving a ‘gaping hole’.
Around this time, Miss Meade connected with fellow Crohn’s sufferer Rhys Thomas, 30, online.
The pair only met in person two years later when they bumped into each other in a hospital in Cardiff.
After a two-year romance, Mr Thomas popped the question last Saturday during a trip to Amsterdam.
The couple, who plan to get married in 2021, even say they are ‘grateful’ they have Crohn’s because it led them to their ‘soulmate’.
Crohn’s patients’ Chloe Meade and Rhys Thomas got engaged last Saturday (seen left) in Amsterdam after meeting on a Facebook support group in 2015. The couple have supported each other throughout their illnesses, which has left Miss Meade with a stoma bag (seen right)
Chloe Meade, 25, was left with a 20cm (7.8 inch) scar down her abdomen after she developed an infected abscess in January 2015. Less than three months later, the scar burst, leaving a ‘gaping hole’ (pictured is her stomach after an operation)
Miss Meade claims she ‘never’ expected a Crohn’s support group to lead her to her ‘soulmate’
Speaking of the romance, Miss Meade said: ‘Never, ever did I think an inflammatory bowel disease group would lead to me finding my soulmate.
‘I’m grateful everyday to have Crohn’s. It’s brought terrible pain to my life but also brought me the greatest things in life [including] my fiancé’.
Mr Thomas added: ‘Even though Crohn’s has massively impacted our lives, in a way we’re glad we both have it because it has brought us together.’
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a medical term that describes a group of conditions in which the intestines become inflamed (red and swollen).
Two major types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine (colon) whereas Crohn’s disease can occur in any part of the intestines.
Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal cramps and pain frequent
- Watery diarrhoea (may be bloody)
- Severe urgency to have a bowel movement
- Fever during active stages of disease
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Tiredness and fatigue anaemia (due to blood loss)
People of any age can get IBD, but it’s usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40.
The conditions are chronic and cannot be cured so treatment usually relies on medication and lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms, but may include surgery.
IBD is thought to affect some three million people in the US, over 300,000 Britons, and 85,000 Australians.
Source: Crohn’s & Colitis Australia
Miss Meade, a pharmacy assistant dispenser, was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2005, when she was just 11 years old.
Years later she suffered an infected abscess – a complication common in Crohn’s patients – and needed emergency surgery.
The operation was a success and she was left with a scar down her abdomen.
Ten weeks later, however, the wound became infected. Miss Meade claims her scar burst, leaving a gaping hole.
It was like something out of a horror film,’ she said. ‘My scar opened up completely.
‘I could see straight through my scar into my stomach’.
After overcoming the ordeal, Miss Meade went under the knife again in July last year.
Doctors removed a section of her large bowel, along with her rectum and gallbladder, in a nine-hour operation. She was then fitted with a permanent stoma bag.
‘We’ve been through a lot over the last few years, in particular with Chloe having life-changing surgery last year, but everything has just come together for us recently’, Mr Thomas said.
Mr Thomas, director of a translation company, was diagnosed aged 19 in 2008. He regularly endures fatigue, ulcers and abdominal cramps.
After becoming Facebook friends, the pair would chat about their condition online, with Mr Thomas asking his now-fiancé for advice on medication.
Two years later, Miss Meade went to a hospital in Cardiff for an iron transfusion. Mr Thomas was there receiving auto immune injections.
‘It was a huge coincidence Chloe and I bumped into each other in the hospital that one time,’ he said.
‘Chloe was sat in the treatment room and we caught eyes. We started chatting when we realised we were friends on Facebook.’
The couple (pictured at their engagement) are ‘grateful’ they have Crohn’s – despite all the pain, fatigue and cramps – because it brought them together. They plan to get married in 2021
Miss Meade (pictured left in hospital) has particularly suffered due to her condition. In 2015 she had an infected abscess. She had surgery but the scar later burst. Once healed, she required an operation to remove much of her large bowel, leaving her with a stoma (right)
A month after they met in hospital, Miss Meade had to be rushed to A&E with Crohn’s complications while attending a wedding.
While in hospital, Miss Meade told Mr Thomas of the ordeal over Facebook. He came to collect her once she was discharged and took her to where her parents were staying.
Miss Meade was later admitted again, this time for a week. Mr Thomas would visit every day, which led to their blossoming romance.
‘While she was in hospital, I brought her chocolates and chatted to her because I wanted to be there for her,’ he said.
‘I also took her on our first proper “date” to the KFC near the hospital before she got discharged.’
The pair became official in September 2017, with Miss Meade moving in with Mr Thomas just two months later. In December last year, they bought a flat together.
After planning the proposal for months, Mr Thomas popped the question last weekend.
‘The moment Rhys and I got engaged was very surreal, it’s kind of a blur,’ Miss Meade said.
‘I heard our song, The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go”, play as I walked up the stairs of the roof terrace and thought, “It’s happening, he’s actually going to propose!”
‘Of course I said yes instantly, it was just perfect, he’d thought of every last detail to make it perfect for me, I couldn’t have wished for more.’
The couple (left) became official before Miss Meade was discharged from her last surgery. Mr Thomas would visit with chocolates. Miss Meade (pictured right in hospital) claims Crohn’s has ‘brought terrible pain to her life but also brought her the greatest things in life’
Mr Thomas popped the question at a romantic rooftop setting overlooking a windmill
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