Home and Away stars Sophie Dillman and Patrick O'Connor play a couple onscreen in the Australian soap opera, but their attempt to recreate that spark off-set had a rocky start. Their first date was cut short when Dillman was rushed to the hospital when she experienced a pain flare-up. She suffers from endometriosis, a chronic illness where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in another part of the body.
After eating at a restaurant in Newtown, a suburb of Sydney, Dillman experienced a sudden pain. "I said, 'I have to sit down, right now.' And [Patrick] was like, 'Sophie, we're on King Street, you can't sit down,'" Dillman recalled in a new interview with Yahoo Lifestyle.
As she sat on the street, Dillman called her mother up and told her she needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible. She did not have painkillers at the time. "My sister was giving me all this advice as well, and he'd never seen anything like that before, the poor guy," Dillman said.
O'Connor "went white" at the sight of his co-star in pain, Dillman said. However, he stayed by her side the entire night. "He was like, 'I don't know how to help you, but I'm gonna try.' And he was just so wonderful," she recalled.
After the initial setback, O'Connor did all the research he could on endometriosis. "Bless his cotton socks, when my endometriosis started getting really bad again, he did heaps of research, and he has a hot water bottle in his car for me," Dillman told Yahoo. O'Connor even put together a "pain packet" for Dillman at his place.
Dillman has already had several surgeries and came to terms with the knowledge that she will have to manage with the condition for the rest of her life. The support she has from her family and O'Connor is essential. "Those support people in your life, whether they're your partner or your parents, or your friends or family – are just golden gems," she said. "And yeah, we couldn't do it without you."
Dillman hopes that coming forward will raise awareness of endometriosis and other chronic illnesses. Her advice for those with similar pain is to never give up. "Don't give up. If you know there is something going on in you that doesn't feel right or is causing you pain. Pain is an indicator in your body that there is something wrong, and you need to answer it because it won't stop," Dillman told Yahoo. "Pain is designed to throw your whole existence into knowing that there is something wrong in that spot."
Dillman has starred in Home and Away as Ziggy Astoni since 2017. O'Connor joined the show a year later as Dean Thompson. They went to the same acting school in Queensland and were friends for years before their relationship took a romantic turn. "It's nice to have a relationship built on friendship," Dillman told TV Week in 2021. "At the core, we are best mates first and we treat each other like that, but it's also made our relationship stronger starting out that way."