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All about Below Deck: Med star Kyle Viljoen as he shares heartbreaking details of health diagnosis

Below Deck fans fell in love with Kyle, who enjoyed a forbidden boat romance with a guest...


Kyle also stars in Below Deck Med season eight
7 October 2023
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Below Deck fans fell in love with the entertaining Kyle Viljoen when he appeared as a stew on Below Deck: Med season seven. He quickly became an MVP but his time on the show was cut short after an injury forced Captain Sandy Yawn to relieve him of his duties. 

Now, however, the South African native has shared a heartbreaking diagnosis with fans, revealing that he had been facing the "most painful and traumatic bodily experience of my life". Here's all we know about Kyle… 

Kyle appeared on Below Deck: Med season seven© Bravo
Kyle appeared on Below Deck: Med season seven

What was Below Deck: Med's Kyle's illness? 

Kyle took to Instagram this past week to reveal he had been diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. 

"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," he shared with fans alongside a picture of him in hospital hooked up to many machines. 

"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. 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." 

View post on Instagram
 

Kyle then shared that medical staff examined him with "almost every service from ophthalmology to dermatology (over 20 doctors) and told me I had something called SJS". 

"With an impeccable medical staff, a loving fiancé, and support of friends and family I am working towards making a full recovery. 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," he continued. 

"A few things I’ve learned from this experience. 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)."

What is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS)? 

Kyle Viljoen on Watch What Happens Live© Bravo
Kyle Viljoen on Watch What Happens Live

According to Mayo Clinic, it is a "rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes." 

"It's usually a reaction to medication that starts with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful rash that spreads and blisters. Then the top layer of affected skin dies, sheds and begins to heal after several days." 

It is treated by focusing on "removing the cause, caring for wounds, controlling pain and minimizing complications as skin regrows." 

Why did Kyle Viljoen leave Below Deck? 

Towards the end of the yachting season, shown in the series's seventh season, Kyle twisted his ankle after falling down the stairs while on board. He damaged his ligaments badly, and he was unable to perform basic stew tasks, which meant Captain Sandy had to ask him to leave the boat so they could bring on another stew. 

Dave White, Kyle Viljoen, Natasha Webb in Below Deck: Med season seven© Bravo
Kyle left season seven towards the end of the charter

Is Kyle from Below Deck with Frank?

Fans loved seeing the forbidden romance bloom between Kyle and charter guest Frank who boarded the yacht with friends for an LGBTQ+ adventure. Kyle bonded with the group, and shared details of his recent coming out, but he found a special connection with Frank, and when the boys' charter ended, Frank invited the group to spend time with the crew on their day off. 

Kyle Bends the Rules and Gets Cozy With a Guest | Below Deck Med Sneak Peek (S7 E9) | Bravo

They promised to stay in touch and although it was thought the pair would not kiss – as it would be breaking a cardinal yachting rule not to hook up with guests –  Kyle ran out of the van as they left to return to the yacht to passionately kiss Frank to cheers from all of their friends. 

However, their romance soon fizzled although they remain close friends. In fact, Frank introduced Kyle to his now-fiance Zachary. 

What is Kyle doing now from Below Deck?

Kyle is now on Below Deck: Med season eight, working alongside Natalya Scudder - whom he often clashed with on the previous season – and Below Deck: Down Under's Tumi Mhlongo. 

He lives full time in New York City, moving there to be close to Frank, and living with his fiance Zachary Riley, whom he called the "love of his life." 

In August 2022 Kyle shared memories of his "first all gay charter group" and added: "Because of Frank I have now met the love of my life and partner for life @dr.zriles All these boys are my NYC goose clang and live with the memories for life!" 

Is Kyle from Below Deck engaged? 

View post on Instagram
 

Kyle proposed to Zachary in November 2022. 

"Zachary & I are officially engaged and to my universe I want to thank you for loving me unconditionally, desirably and with full intent to be my forever and always. We have walked a rocky but loving road, you have made my heart full and I found home in not materialistic things but in my soul you have your place!" he captioned a snap of the pair in the moment, with Kyle down on one knee. 

"Flying to South Africa on Table Mountain was the point I wanted to scream highest to say we have our place in this universe and being surrounded by his and my family was a sacred energy that we could only have wished for and more!"

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