“Late Sunday night was the start to a scary ride for [my fiancé] Zachary [Riley] and I. After starting a new medication I begin to feel generally unwell. Little did I know the battle I was going to face was the most painful and traumatic bodily experience of my life,” Viljoen captioned several Instagram photos on Sunday, October 1, of him in the hospital.
The reality star listed several symptoms which culminated in a visit to the emergency room.
“Monday started with throat pain like none other. Spread to my mouth, lips, hands, and feet. Having gone to the walk-in clinic & diagnosed with hand-foot-mouth disease they sent me on my way,” he recalled. “Wednesday-Thursday I suffered from worsening blisters, inability to tolerate swallowing, tongue swelling, and change in vision. Friday there was still no sign of relief. Zachary rushed me to NYU ER. 🏥.”
Viljoen was “rushed” to an examination room where he finally got a diagnosis.
“Bypassing others in the ED waiting room, the medical staff rushed me into be examined from head to toe by almost every service from ophthalmology to dermatology (over 20 doctors) and told me I had something called SJS,” he detailed. “Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. Treated as a medical emergency requiring hospitalization.”
Viljoen continued: “Usually a reaction to certain medications that starts with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful rash that spreads with bursting and oozing blisters. Then the top layer of affected skin dies & sheds. Treated with intensive IVIG transfusions and medical treatment.”
Mayo Clinic notes that those suffering from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome can require anywhere from weeks to several months for recovery.
In his lengthy social media message, Viljoen thanked the hospital staff and his loved ones for staying by his side.
“With an impeccable medical staff, a loving fiancé, and support of friends and family I am working towards making a full recovery,” he added. “Having eaten my first meal in 7 days and finding that coconut milk helps with mouth blisters, I am over the moon with optimism and hope. 🫂.”
The stew concluded by sharing some of the lessons he learned from the experience, writing, “One, advocate for your health and treat your body seriously. If something doesn’t feel right seek treatment. Two, family and a support system is EVERYTHING. Without them, I’m not sure where I’d be. And three, try to always get through rough times with lots of love and even more laughs (even when they hurt). ❤️.”
Viljoen got an outpouring of love from his fiancé and fellow Bravo stars. “So proud of how strong you are 💪🏻 I love you till the days end, my warrior ❤️🥰,” wrote Viljoen’s partner — who is also a doctor.
Meanwhile, Below Deck Down Under‘s Culver Bradbury left a light-hearted message in the comments section, “Someone get my man some coconut milk !!! Hope your feeling better bud , sending good vibes your way 🙌🏻🥥,” the deckhand added.
Natasha Webb, who appeared on season 7 of Below Deck Med with Viljoen, sent her well wishes, writing, “My heart is so broken seeing you like this my love 😢💔 sending you all mine, Max, Paddington & Rupert’s love, cuddles, kisses and strength. We love you so dearly ❤️ xxxx.”
Their costar Dave White also reacted to the health scare. “Ahhh man.. so much love pal! I wish you a speedy recovery, @dr.zriles let me know if I can help In anyway! ❤️,” the chef wrote in response to the post.