Emmerdale's Gemma Oaten left sobbing as she's reunited with 'hero' on holiday after childhood illness | The Sun

SOAP star Gemma Oaten has opened up about being reduced to tears while being reunited with a “hero” on holiday, and crediting them with saving her life. 

The 39-year-old recounted the story as she revealed more about her horrific childhood illness. 

Gemma has always been honest about battling eating disorder anorexia when she was younger.

She has previously gone into detail about how it got so bad that doctors gave her just 24 hours to live.

Sharing a series of photos on social media, Gemma revealed to fans that she had been reunited with a nurse who looked after her during that awful period while on holiday in Majorca.

And not just any nurse, but one the former Emmerdale star credits with keeping her alive.


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Expressing the moment she realised the woman talking to her was actually Joyce from West End Child Adolescent and Family Service, Gemma says she broke down.

In the caption she wrote: “With that I felt incapable of drawing breath. Then I found myself holding her tight & quietly sobbing into her chest. Just like I had 28yrs ago.”

The actress, who has starred in Hollyoaks, Emmerdale and Holby City, went into detail to tell the story, revealing that at one point doctors thought she only had 24 hours to live. 

She continued: “Joyce looked after me when she was a carer at the unit I was admitted to with #anorexia at 11yrs old & given 24hrs to live.

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"A place that many who were meant to be helping me, treated me like I was nothing. Treated in a barbaric way, doing more harm then good.

“1 time, I wasn't allowed to ring my parents to say goodnight as a punishment for losing weight that day. I was 11yo, on bed rest, 24hr watch & the 1 thing that helped me sleep was hearing my parents tell me they loved me.

“Joyce was on watch that night & came to my bed, as I sobbed in her arms. She then led me quietly to the office & let me call home.”

Gemma went on: “I'll never forget it, & to this day when I do my public speaking & work with @seedsupportuk I tell the story of Joyce whose kindness I believe kept me alive.”

Underneath the emotional post, Gemma’s mum Marg also commented to thank Joyce for her kindness. 

She wrote: “Joyce was such a star with compassion n a good heart sorry to say not like many workers at that time x Joyce will never know what those good night calls meant to us too x she is a truly beautiful sole prepared to help our daughter at ghdbhands of unacceptable rules regulations n pure unacceptability love you forever Joyce x.”

Gemma’s followers were bowled over by the incredible reunion and rushed to tell the actor.

One person wrote: “A lovely surprise for you x”

“Beautiful story,” added someone else.

While another gushed: “Oh gemma this is inspiring, such a thing to finally say Thank You to Joyce, what a wonderful thing! This has me sobbing extremely hard, happy tears, I appreciate You sharing.”

Gemma — best known for playing Rachel Breckle in Emmerdale from 2011-2015 — developed anorexia aged ten following an episode of being bullied at school.

Just a year later she was so ill she ended up in hospital and was sent to a youngsters’ psychiatric unit. She says: “There were moments when I was on my deathbed and I didn’t even know what day it was.

“I felt helpless and the easier option was not to be alive any more, rather than live the hell I was enduring.”

When she gained weight she was allowed home to Hull.

But there were regular relapses and her teenage years were blighted by bulimia, binge-eating, laxative abuse, over-exercising and an addiction to sleeping tablets.

Gemma is now manager and patron of eating disorders support group Seed, which you can find at the website seed.charity.

She says: “I hadn’t addressed the reasons behind the eating disorder so as soon as I felt troubled, it came back.

“When I was 15 I got a sickness bug and realised I was able to make myself sick. It was a way I could fool everybody.

“In one unit I was so weak I wasn’t allowed to wash my own hair or go for a walk.

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“The only time I could exercise was when I went to the toilet. So I’d do 50 sit-ups on the floor while a member of staff stood outside waiting for me.”

A dramatic low came when her eating disorder caused Gemma to suffer a heart attack when she was just 18 years old. After that she began to see a therapist, gradually recovered, and by the time she was 23 she felt well enough to go to drama school.

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