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Celebrity News

Suzanne Paul's health shock

The truth about her mystery illness

By Wendyl Nissen
When infomercial queen Suzanne Paul woke up after fainting during a Zoom call, it was typical of her to think that she had just been on the floor playing with her dog Matty.
"I thought for a minute, 'What am I doing down here? It's not very comfortable – oh, I must have been playing with Matty,'" says Suzanne, recounting her blackout.
"There couldn't have been anything wrong with me because I'm one of those people who has a cast-iron British constitution and I never get colds, coughs or the flu."
On September 22, Suzanne had been doing a motivational talk to 250 people for 50 minutes on Zoom when things started going horribly wrong.
"I have no memory of it now, but apparently I face-planted onto my desk in the middle of talking, and was down there for a few seconds before I sat back up and said, 'Now, where was I?' Then my eyes rolled back in my head and I went backwards right off the chair."
The star admits that after what she's been through, she doesn't know how she stays so upbeat
Suzanne is laughing as she tells this story, but while it was happening, she was very scared.
"Ryman Healthcare, who I was doing the speech for, thought I was having a stroke, so they switched the Zoom off and started trying to get in touch with me on the phone."
Suzanne woke up on the floor after a few minutes and found her phone. It was ringing, but she had set it on silent while she did her talk.
"I said, 'Oh, hello, I don't know what happened there, where has everybody gone? I think my computer has gone off, so let's carry on, shall we?' All they could say was please call an ambulance."
Suzanne's fiancé Patrick Kuhtze was outside in his office, so had no idea what was going on inside the house.
Finally, Suzanne agreed to ring an ambulance and she was off to hospital, without Patrick because of Covid restrictions in Auckland.
"I was still in the emergency room when I got a message from Anthony Ray [Suzanne's former co-host on the TV show Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?], who lives in the States, saying, 'OMG, how are you? I just heard you had collapsed.' The jungle drums were going off."
Suzanne spent two days in hospital and was diagnosed with very low blood pressure, high cholesterol and a leaky heart valve.
While Suzanne was in hospital, Patrick had to notify her worried family and friends. "He reckons he got RSI from all the texting!"
Meanwhile, social media went into overdrive with false reports of Suzanne's illness, including a cancer diagnosis, which was awful for her family and friends to read, or she had Covid, or that she had just had the Covid vaccination and was having an extreme reaction. None of which were true, but Patrick spent days online at home while Suzanne was in hospital attempting to put out the facts, and call and message all the friends and family who had got in touch from all over the world.
"Bless him, he was worried to death at the same time and reckons he got RSI in his thumbs from all the texting!"
When Suzanne left hospital, she felt very sorry for the many patients she saw in their beds not being visited by friends and relatives because of Covid restrictions.
Then she got home and tried to come to terms with her health scare.
"It took a couple of weeks to come right and then I was so grateful for my health. I used to say, 'Thank you, God, thank you, universe, for my health and safety' on the odd occasion, but now I'm saying it every day."
Looking back, Suzanne believes she blacked out because of stress. Leading up to the Zoom call, she and Patrick had made the decision to cancel their wedding plans due to Covid restrictions. She hadn't been sleeping and was watching too much news.
"We were supposed to get married on October 10, so we were watching all the updates, trying to work out what we could do, how many people we could have, outside or inside, masks or no masks, food or no food, and it was really hard on me.
"Normally, I don't watch, listen to or read the news because it depresses me and gives me negative stress, so I was in my own bubble. Then suddenly we were glued to it, just so that we could see if we could get married, and I think it really played havoc with my stress."
In the end, they decided to cancel it and Suzanne had been cancelling everything the week of her Zoom call.
The couple have been together for three years and are getting quite used to having their lives changed because of the pandemic. Patrick had planned to ask Suzanne to marry him at a riverside restaurant in Bangkok last March, but instead had to do it at home while the couple were watching Married At First Sight.
After the wedding, the couple were planning a honeymoon in Broome, Australia, where one of Patrick's four sons lives, but that has also been put on hold. Instead, they hope to hire a campervan and head to Northland to visit Patrick's childhood home of Kawakawa when borders open, celebrating Suzanne's 65th birthday on November 16 along the way.
Fiancé Patrick has been warned not to plan a surprise 65th for Suzanne. "I'd be mortified!" she says.
"I want to be on the beach with the back doors open to the sea and be able to enjoy nature for a few days," she shares. "But that might change too and we'll be having a picnic on the grass at home!"
Suzanne admits she's not "that thrilled" to be turning 65. "I told Patrick not to plan some awful surprise party where everybody would be giving me cards and balloons with "you are 65!" written all over them. I'd be mortified."
Like many women her age, Suzanne says she sometimes gets taken by surprise when she sees herself in the mirror and thinks she looks like her aunty or her mother.
"I do wonder to myself what on earth happened, but then I just put it out of my thoughts and pay no mind to it, and concentrate on the good things about myself.
"I was thinking about Dancing with the Stars the other day and watched some of the old videos of myself, and realised that I looked fabulous then, when I was 50. But at the time, I really hated not being young and in my 20s or 30s like the other contestants, and I wonder what I was moaning about.
"So I'm not going to be too negative about being 65 because when I'm 80, I'll look back and wonder what I was on about!"
Suzanne says she wouldn't say no to Botox or cosmetic surgery in the future, when she can afford it, but is happy with her body, which she keeps in shape with regular Zumba classes online and at the local community hall when she can.
"We were allowed to do it outside the other day and we nearly stopped the traffic with us in our little outfits jigging about."
One thing Suzanne is determined not to do is tell herself to slow down.
"When you get older, you feel the same in your head as when you were young. I feel exactly the same when I get up in the morning as I always have – full of opinions and plans, and no thought that I can't do something. I'm hardly going to have a word with myself at 65, and tell myself to sit down and do my knitting."
Suzanne keeps a plan book where she writes down all her ideas. Plan 39 was the one which brought her to New Zealand and there is a new business idea in there at the moment that she's very excited about but is keeping top secret for the moment.
Meanwhile, she is working on a new book which is an update to But Wait, There's More, which she published in 2008.
"I've been working on it in lockdown and I'm adding in things that I couldn't write about when my mum was alive – stuff about my childhood," she reveals.
"People say it's cathartic writing a book, but it's quite painful to write about bad memories. I realise now that I ended up a very independent, strong-willed girl because I was determined not to live the life of my childhood any more. I didn't like the poverty, the loneliness, the hunger and the cold. I just decided I'm not having it and that motivated me all through the years. I was so fearless."
Suzanne says she is amazed she has become such an upbeat, happy person after things she went through in her childhood, but she credits that to being a forgiving person.
"I learned early on that if I thought about something and it hurt me and made me angry, then the best thing to do was just not think about it. Just let it go. That's worked for me for years."
Suzanne hopes the new book, which will be called But Wait, There's Even More, will be out next year, although work has been on hold for a while as she and Patrick recently moved house to Dairy Flat in Auckland, and she's been working hard on her new top-secret plan, as well as recovering from her health scare.
But her lockdown project of reviewing her life for her book has helped her get in touch with the person she was in her younger days, just in time for her 65th birthday.
"As I was writing about those younger times, I thought, 'I want to be that person again. I want to be that person I was before all that stuff happened to me that dimmed my sparkle and my shine.'
"I realised that I've been through some really tough times in my life and I have got through them and survived. So it doesn't really matter what life throws at me now because I know I will get through it, and I will survive because I have done it before and I'll do it again."
At the moment, Suzanne says she feels she's at a great place in her life.
"I'm happy, I've got a lovely man because I never gave up on love, a nice home and, touch wood, I've still got my health and sanity. I think I'm living my best life."

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