I kissed my husband Gaz Beadle & 2 kids goodbye fearing I’d never see them again before life-saving op, says Emma McVey

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AS she kissed her husband and their tearful two children on the eve of having open heart surgery, Emma McVey feared it was the last goodbye.

The 30-year-old model and influencer, who’s married to ex Geordie Shore star Gaz Beadle, knew the operation was risky, and was terrified she’d be put to sleep and never wake up.


Emma McVey with husband Gaz Beadle and their two childrenCredit: Emma McVey Instagram
Emma underwent open heart surgery and admits she feared she'd never wake up


Emma underwent open heart surgery and admits she feared she’d never wake upCredit: Instagram

Emma had no idea she’d been born with three holes in her heart until a monitor was fitted following her second pregnancy.

She’d suffered years of seizures, exhaustion and fainting episodes – but while the diagnosis was illuminating, medics were cautious about operating because Emma is also battling ulcerative colitis.

The condition, which affects roughly one in 420 in the UK, causes ulcers and inflammation in the digestive tract.

The steroid treatment used to treat it can lead to bone loss and breakage, which doctors warned could stop Emma’s bones fusing back together.

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Surgery originally planned for November 2021 – four months after Emma’s wedding to TV star Gary – was postponed when her colitis worsened. 

But just before Christmas last year, when her tricuspid valve – the valve between the two right chambers of the heart – further deteriorated, the decision was made to proceed with the op in spite of the risks.

Recalling the moment Gary, 34, and their children Chester, five, and Primrose, three, left her at Leeds General Infirmary before her procedure on January 25, Emma says: “They came to the hospital to drop me off and Gary had to drive away with the kids crying their eyes out after we said goodbye. 

“That was the hardest bit. I had to mentally prepare myself that it could be my last goodbye. 

Emma and Gaz married in July 2021


Emma and Gaz married in July 2021Credit: Sophie Eleanor Photography
Emma recently shared a photo showing her scar from her surgery


Emma recently shared a photo showing her scar from her surgeryCredit: Instagram/@emma_jane1392/

“I knew in surgery I’d be connected to a heart machine that would be keeping me alive while my heart was stopped, and I kept thinking, ‘They’re not going to be able to start my heart again’. 

“I thought, ‘I’m going to get put to sleep and I’m not coming back out’.”

Before leaving for hospital, Emma had planned a daily morning treasure hunt for the children to distract them from her absence, with fun-packed prizes including kids cameras and personalised baking sets.

“I wanted to make a happy memory of me being gone,” she says.

I thought, ‘I’m going to get put to sleep and I’m not coming back out’

Emma McVey

After a sleepless first night on a ward, she was wheeled into theatre at dawn where, under the care of consultant congenital cardiac surgeon Giuseppe Pelella, she spent six hours on the operating table.

After regaining consciousness she felt “pain coming from all over”.

She explains: “As well as an eight inch heart surgery scar, I had two chest tubes [inserted near the breast bone] to drain blood – one went towards my lung and the other towards my heart. 

“I had a big tube in my neck with lots of wires coming out. I couldn’t sit up or move on my side and because the morphine made me sick, I didn’t want to press my morphine button so I probably wasn’t taking as much medication as I should, which added to the pain. 

“On day two I was crying as nurses helped me walk to the toilet. 

“I kept thinking ‘how am I ever going to get out of bed myself?’. I couldn’t imagine life being normal again.”

Collapsed lung

Emma has been praised for normalising living with scars


Emma has been praised for normalising living with scarsCredit: Instagram

On day two Emma’s health took a turn for the worse when her chest tubes were removed and she suffered an agonising collapsed right lung.

It triggered a surgical emphysema, a rare type of lung condition where air becomes trapped beneath the skin.

For two days Emma’s voice became squeaky and she struggled to hear, but after talk of being admitted to intensive care, she naturally recovered when her body reabsorbed the gas.

After six nights away Emma returned to the family home near Leeds.

She has since been praised for normalising living with scars, after posting a photograph showing her chest wound in plain sight.

“I don’t want to hide it, either at home in front of the kids, in public, or on social media,” she says.

“I know a four-year-old girl who’s waiting for heart surgery and I want to show children like her that a scar like mine is something to be proud of. 

“When I look at it, I just think, ‘This saved me’.”

Vile trolls

Emma, a size 4-6, dramatically dropped two dress sizes in recent years because of her health problems.

She has, in the past, been ‘skinny-shamed’ on social media, with trolls accusing her of being too thin.

Some have even accused her of fabricating her illnesses to hide an eating disorder.

But recent online comments have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Previously I didn’t speak much about my health problems on social media because I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me,” she says.

I know a four-year-old girl who’s waiting for heart surgery and I want to show children like her that a scar like mine is something to be proud of

Emma McVey

“People would leave all these horrible comments, without having a clue about what I was dealing with.

“Now the comments are all lovely, all about body positivity and owning yourself. 

“I had so many messages from parents including one saying, ‘Thank you so much for doing that because my daughter won’t show hers because she thinks it’s ugly’.”

At a follow-up appointment with her consultant Dr Karina Gopaul this week, Emma – who recently started driving again – was told she was “healing really well” and given permission to re-start her beloved Pilates.

And since taking a pregnancy pause after learning that carrying both her babies could have been fatal because of the extra strain it put on her weakened heart, Emma can now safely try for baby number three.

She says: “They’ve said that I can get pregnant! I do want a third in the future, but I don’t know if I fancy a baby kicking in my ribs just yet. 

“This is the first time I’ve had energy. Chester keeps saying, ‘Can you run?’ because before I’d get so out of breath. 

“I now want to enjoy the next few years with the kids whilst I’ve got this new lease of life.”

Gaz has praised his wife's bravery


Gaz has praised his wife’s braveryCredit: INSTAGRAM
Emma says she's had a new lease of life since the surgery


Emma says she’s had a new lease of life since the surgeryCredit: INSTAGRAM

Gary, who Emma praises for “doing amazingly” and “holding it together while he was anxious” during her time in hospital and recovery, is also benefiting from his wife’s extra get-up-and-go.

She previously told how crushing exhaustion often meant she was too tired to go on dates with Gary. 

“I’ve got more energy on a night!” Emma chuckles. “I’ve been staying up late and it’s lovely that we can do more things together without me worrying, ‘Am I going to be tired?’ 

“Last week, for the first time in years, we went out for food with another couple! 

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“My recovery isn’t just benefiting me, it’s improving everybody’s lives.”

For information and support, contact Crohn’s & Colitis UK — visit Crohnsandcolitis.org.uk or call 0300 2225700.

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