Former Hollyoaks star Kelly-Marie Stewart has hinted that she was an early victim of Zika virus as she was left wheelchair-bound and lost her unborn baby after contracting the mosquito-borne virus after she visited the Dominican Republic nine years ago.
The actress, well-known for playing Hayley Ramsey in the Channel 4 soap and being the first disabled person to play a main part, claimed that when she returned, she was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre syndrome, losing the use of her legs, and was told she had miscarried.
She opened up about her tragic diagnosis following a recent study that connected the first evidence of the Zika virus to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Kelly-Marie is now urging pregnant women not to travel to countries that have been hit by the virus, which has been blamed for causing miscarriages and the surge in babies with brain damage.
She told Liverpool Echo: ‘I went on holiday for two weeks and while there I came down with flu symptoms, I was aching all over. I put it down to picking up a bug, but I was covered from head to toe in mosquito bites – I looked like a Lion bar.
“I was 16 weeks pregnant, and two days before flying out I’d had my scan and everything was fine. I had all the advance tests and the day after getting home I got the results that everything was good. But I’d been home a few days and I’d gone back to my normal job at Ryanair and I didn’t feel right, I felt like I was walking on sponge.”
Stewart was admitted to hospital after tests showed she had little feeling in her legs. She was there for 10 months and unable to get out of bed as she was ‘completely paralysed’ from the waist down.’
She was then hit with the sad news that she had miscarried her baby in her first week in hospital.
She went on: ‘I was convinced that whatever was going on with me had affected the baby. It was hard to deal with because I was going through one lot of emotions because I’d lost the baby, but everything was about me being ok.’
Kelly-Marie, who married boyfriend James Lovelady in August, 2015, insisted that what happened to her was ‘too much of a coincidence’ to not be connected to the Zika virus.
‘This is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life,’ she said.