Ayala’s amputation comes nearly 20 years after he was first diagnosed with lymphedema. (According to a Mayo Clinic definition, lymphedema occurs when tissue swells as a result of a build-up of fluid that is usually drained through the body’s lymphatic system.)
“This is something that I have never been public about because I never wanted sympathy or for people to feel sorry for me,” the Bachelor in Paradise alum wrote via Instagram in December 2018. “ In 2002 I was officially diagnosed with #lymphedema a non-curable condition that is often misdiagnosed and completely understudied by medical professionals across the 🌎 I was told by dozens of doctors and ‘Specialists’ that I would never be able to play competitive sports and that I would have to manage this condition for the rest of my life.”
He added: “After visiting over 20 clinics, I was finally given some treatment options. Through manual lymphatic drainage massage, leg pumps, and custom compression garments, I was given a second chance to live a ‘normal’ life again. This didn’t come [without] countless nights of excruciating pain, swelling, and mental agony. Through the support of my family, friends, and music, I stopped focusing on my misfortunes and started prioritizing the blessings that I often took for granted.”
In his social media post at the time, Ayala noted that a 2014 infection in his right knee led him to have 13 various surgical procedures before his recent amputation.
Ayala first appeared on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette in May 2019, where he earned a coveted first impression rose ahead of its premiere. (Brown met a handful of suitors at the Bachelor After the Final Rose special months earlier.) After sparking an immediate connection with the 27-year-old God Bless This Mess author on the reality TV series, Ayala opened up about his medical past.
“I wanted to say: ‘Look, I know that this is a show. But in reality, if it’s going to be you and I at the end of this, and we’re going to be husband and wife, and we’re exchanging vows of in sickness and in health. I need to know that you actually mean that and can handle what’s unknown for me,’” the Texas native — who was accused of only telling Brown in exchange for a “pity rose” — recalled to Refinery29 in June 2019. “Because there’s a lot of strong guys in the house, but their strength is different than my strength. I’ve endured a lot of physical and emotional pain from having this condition and these surgeries.”
He added: “I’ve never been the type to complain about my condition or ask for pity or sympathy from anybody. I just wanted to be a strong fighter and be treated normally like everybody else in this world.”