When Scott Yates had to be carried into hospital by his worried wife, he had no idea just how ill he really was.
Unable to keep food down and having lost a lot of weight, he knew something wasn’t quite right.
He was eventually diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
Now 28, Scott has come a long way in the 10 years since he was at his lowest ebb.
As well as having surgery, he has changed career and become a gardener, helping to reduce his stress levels. Now he hopes to make more people aware of the disease.
‘I thought I had an eating disorder,’ he says.
Eventually, my wife had to carry me to hospital and she told the staff she wasn’t leaving until somebody saw me
‘Everything that I ate was coming out at both ends. My wife knew something was wrong. We both did.
‘I used to hide my weight. She started monitoring what I was eating. I went to the doctor about it and they told me it was a cold or a virus.’
Scott adds: ‘Eventually, my wife had to carry me to hospital and she told the staff she wasn’t leaving until somebody saw me.’
It was then that Scott, from Wild Ridings in Fareham, was diagnosed with Crohn’s and colitis.
‘They said to my wife that if it was another week I wouldn’t have been here because I was that poorly,’ he adds.
‘For me, whenever I have a flare-up I feel like I’m in a dream. It’s really hard to explain.
‘Each case is different, but for me it’s stress-related – that brings up flares. I changed careers to horticulture and I haven’t had a flare-up in a year now.’
Scott, who has a four-year-old son, James, with his wife, Emma, used to work as a che. But the stress of the job forced him to change careers and gardening was a more relaxing option for him.
He now works at the Abbey Garden Centre in Titchfield.
Managing stress is key to sufferers living successfully with this life-long condition.
Scott says: ‘I was a chef before, but James was born and I never got to see him. I’ve always liked gardening and the opportunity came up and I took it and I feel so much better for it health-wise.
‘I’m a lucky Crohn’s sufferer. I don’t have to watch what I eat and I don’t have the urgency any more to run to the toilet.
‘So work-wise this is a big thing because there’s no stress.
‘I think everybody should try it with their careers – not necessarily gardening, but something that they can do to help them relax.
‘I’m not one for sitting and moping around. I’m a worker. I hope that this inspires everybody to live their dreams.’
Scott had surgery in 2013 to prevent his bowel tearing.
He needed the surgery because food wasn’t passing through his body and he was in a lot of pain.
He spent several months in recovery.
And he said he’s been very open with his son, who has Hirschsprung’s disease and had keyhole surgery when he was born.
‘He knows that I have got a poorly bowel. He is very much aware.
‘I think that everybody should be like that with their kids. They should know. He knows about me and I think that’s important.’
Now Scott is on medication to stop his immune system from attacking itself.
He hopes to raise awareness of the disease as it is still relatively unknown.
As part of that, he recently spent three weeks up in London working on a garden being created for the world-famous RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
The aim of the garden was to raise awareness of Bowel Disease UK and it gave Scott the opportunity to talk to visitors about the disease and to make them more aware of it.
‘They were looking for somebody who had Crohn’s disease and who was into horticulture who has made that change in life and feels better about it,’ Scott says.
‘My job role was plant manager. I sorted out all the plants that came through and used the best ones.
‘They wanted to go down the route of relaxing, peaceful and tranquil. For Crohn’s sufferers, stress is a major factor, especially for me.
‘A lot of people can relate to that.
‘We wanted to create a garden feel and somewhere people could sit and relax.
‘We had a little model of what we were hoping it was going to be like and it was perfect.
‘The hard work was worth it. It was brilliant.
‘Throughout the week it was open I spent time talking to people about it.
‘It’s amazing the number of people you meet who have Crohn’s or know someone with it.
‘The youngest person I spoke to who had it was five.’
The garden was very successful, winning a gold award and Best Summer Garden at the show.
It was opened by Bowel Disease UK patron and Rolling Stones musician Ronnie Wood and comedian Dominic Holland.
That provided a launch platform for a £150,000 crowdfunding appeal to study the impact of diet on those with Crohn’s disease.
Bright design details, new materials and hardy exotic plants gave the space a fluid and relaxed atmosphere.
Meanwhile, colourful features, such as amoebic-shaped planters and a blue steel pool, lent the garden a contemporary feel.
The pool and humidifying misters were about linking hydration to bowel health.
The gastro intestinal-shaped path led to a fire pit, which was the focus of a small seating area.
These design features were also intended to signal where Crohn’s strikes and what it can feel like for sufferers.
WHAT IS CROHN’S DISEASE?
Common symptoms can include:
Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
Unintended weight loss
Blood and mucus in your faeces (stools)
People with Crohn’s disease sometimes go for long periods without symptoms or with very mild symptoms. This is known as remission. Remission can be followed by periods where symptoms flare up and become particularly troublesome.
Crohn’s disease is a relatively uncommon condition. There are currently at least 115,000 people living with the condition in the UK.
Crohn’s disease can affect people of all ages, including children. However, most cases first develop between the ages of 16 and 30.
A large number of cases also develop between the ages of 60 and 80.
It affects slightly more women than men, but in children more boys are affected than girls. To find out more, go to boweldisease.org.uk.