Bachelor star opens up on health battle

Tess Nichol,
Spy News,
Publish Date
Sunday, 14 January 2018, 11:21AM

Kids battling bowel disease will be joined at a six-day camp in Papakura by Bachelor season three winner Viarni Bright - a fellow Crohn's sufferer.

Bright, 23, has been open about her life with Crohn's, a bowel condition she was diagnosed with at 19.

New Zealand has the world's highest incidence rate of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with an estimated 20,000 people living with the disease.

IBD is the collective term for Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.

Both cause debilitating pain, hospitalisations, repeated surgeries and a severely reduced quality of life.

Despite New Zealand's high number of patients, the "closet disease" wasn't often spoken about publicly.

After talking about her health on national TV, Bright said she'd received many messages from young people thanking her for being open about it.

She was invited to attend Camp Purple today by the Crohn's & Colitis New Zealand Charitable Trust (CCNZ).

• WATCH: Camp Purple: Living with Crohn's and Colitis.

This year is the camp's fourth and more than 60 children and teenagers who have Crohn's and ulcerative colitis will be attending.

Bright doubted many of the younger kids would recognise her, but said it wasn't her public profile but rather her experience as an older person living life with Crohn's which gave her something to offer.

"I feel like I'm just another person for them to show them you can be confident and not have to hide it," she said.

"I just want to help them out and be their mate."

Former Bachelor contestant Viarni Bright, who talked openly about having Crohn's on TV, is attending a camp for kids suffering from the disease. Photo / Greg Bowker

Relating to someone a bit older who had been diagnosed with IBD and was living a good life would hopefully be a comfort to younger sufferers, she said.

"A lot of these kids are going through puberty and in primary and I can just imagine a bit of social isolation and being scared.

"It's not the easiest thing to talk about sometimes - it can be embarrassing."

Bright was not embarrassed to talk about her condition, but said she could imagine "maybe a little bit of an awkward teenager, you're going to the bathroom every hour on the hour and it could just be a bit overwhelming or scary."

Dealing with IBD as a child was especially challenging, a spokesman for CCNZ said.

"It means missed school days, hospitalisations, and, often, social isolation."

Many of these children had never been to camp due to their disease, or met another child with the same illness.

"Our camp gives the children and teenagers a chance to experience fundamental elements of childhood – the ability to play outdoors, to learn independence, nourish self-esteem, challenge themselves physically, and be proud of their accomplishments."

The six-day experience at Camp Adair in Papakura gave kids the chance to be kids, rather than IBD patients, he said.

"It is heartwarming to see the children interacting with their peers who understand what it is like to be on lifelong medication and live with this disease that no one wants to talk about."

The camp is provided free to the children's families including airfares, with the costs covered by fundraising organised by CCNZ.