Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Death By Anorexia

A colleague of mine, who has specialized in the field of eating
disorder treatment, recently lost a client to anorexia The client was
a woman in her mid-30’s who had been through 6 inpatient treatment
centers and engaged in outpatient eating disorder treatment with a
team of a psychologist, nutritionist, cardiologist, and physician.
She also struggled with alcoholism and attended AA periodically.

It appears that the cause of death was heart failure. This young woman
lived a very isolated life and was not discovered dead in her home
until a week after her death. She had a family that was able to
provide her a very comfortable lifestyle and financial security. She
was smart, attractive and kind.

I know we have all seen cases like this over and over again. In
hindsight, it is apparent that even with the best of care, this woman
simply could not choose recovery over her anorexia. She was a strong
woman; full of discipline…I do not fault her for lack of
determination…but rather am sad to acknowledge we do not yet know
enough of the physiological/neurological causes of eating disorders.

This woman’s death is a tragic loss. However, we will continue to
research and uncover the genetic, environmental, familial and social
factors that contribute to eating disorders.

I take my sadness over this loss and use it to fuel my passion to
continue to explore and promote eating disorder recovery.

Please share any other known deaths by eating disorders here. Perhaps a site visitor will read it as a wake up call, and hopefully those who have lost a loved one or patient
to an eating disorder will find comfort in knowing they are not alone.

Jacquelyn Ekern, MS
www.EatingDisorderHope.com

13 comments:

Vickyann said...

For me the scariest thing about having an eating disorder is the chance of dying from it. Thank you for writing this post; knowing risks won't stop an eating disorder but I agree someone might take a different risk and ask for help.

Vicky X

Anonymous said...

My daughter died of heart failure due to anorexia in July this year (07). The rapidity of her decline was frightening and should alarm anyone suffering from an eating disorder. She had lost a lot of weight last year, during which time she obtained a first class honours degree. After returning home, she began to recover very slowly. Although she was trying to get treatment, waiting lists were long and only limited help was available. by the time she was offered "in-patient" care, she was anxious to get on with the next stage in her life, to travel. She turned down the place and resolved to get better alone. She continued to improve and left to travel South America in April (having put on weight, and panic attacks much lessened.) She worked for 4 weeks on the Galapagos Islands and we have beautiful pictures of a very happy though thin young lady. At the end of May, she was beginning to feel weaker, but refused to come home, continuing to see as much of Peru as she could. Finally, having experienced problems at very high altitude in Colca Canyon, she decided to omit Bolivia and fly directly to Buenos Aires. It was while transferring in Lima that she was taken ill, and although the hospital suggested she would need a week's rest, she died on the second day there, before I could get to her.
Should we have allowed her to go? Could we have stopped her? She said she was eating, but after leaving the Galapagos, was finding it difficult.

Jenny

eating disorder hope said...

Dear Jenny,
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. The heart break of losing a beautiful, intelligent, loving daughter to an eating disorder is excruciating.
At a funeral I attended recently, the pastor told the grieving parents "Our job is not to ask why. But, to ask how can we grow and serve others from this experience". However, perhaps he is too idealistic as I understand that the loss of a child is the most painful loss one can endure.
Your desire to allow her to lead her life, travel, experience happiness and adventure was generous and loving. It is impossible to second guess what one should have done. I imagine you thought long and hard about the choices you made to protect and care for your daughter, and that is good enough.
If she was not willing to devote herself to the inpatient treatment, it may not have had much impact anyhow....In most cases, we like to see eating disorder sufferers inpatient when they are physically and/or emotionally compromised - but sometimes that cannot happen.
I am sure you loved your precious daughter deeply and her life, though cut short by this terrible disease, was fulfilling for her.
God bless you and your family.

Warmly,

Jacqeulyn Ekern, MS
President @ Eating Disorder Hope, LLC

Jenny said...

Thankyou for your kind and encouraging words. It is now a year since our beautiful and loving daughter died, and the pain is still as acute now as it was then. I have during the year questioned treatment in our area, and together with help from the local eating disorder association, there are signs of some improvement in the services offered to people with eating disorders. Our daughter expressed the wish that others would not have to suffer as she did. So it is part of my life to help wherever, however possible.

Jenny

Matt said...

I've struggled with anorexia for the past 4 years, since i was only 14, and i've been able to lose around 70 lbs. i was mildly obese at the time, and when i first started losing weight, i felt great! it was almost like a high, like i had a power that nobody else could percieve. looking at myself now, stepping back and taking a hard look at my life, i can honestly say i'm obsessed with weight loss. unfortunately, i've also reverted to Crystal Methamphetamine as a way of speeding up weight loss, and also as a way of escaping from the many problems occuring in my life. i don't know what to do, i'm afraid i might not make it to age 20, but i can't stop. as i'm typing this, i haven't eaten for 2 days, and the thought of food almost makes me want to puke. i have a cold glass of water next to me, and i sip it every few minutes. i'm not writing this to upset people, i'm merely writing this to show a glimpse of my life as an anorexic. i was always the fat one growing up, and no girls ever wanted to wink at me (i'm a guy, by the way). only now do i truely understand how i fell into such a hole, and it almost feels like the hole is closing with me still inside of it. unfortunately for me, my mind reacts to hunger with feelings of great joy, and almost a euphoric feeling knowing i'm losing more weight, and looking better. i want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and be content with who is staring back at me, but with my condition, i fear that day may never come. i don't want to remain anonymous, for i really have no friends left to talk to. all of them have abandoned me when they learned of what was happening. (great friends, huh?). so if you would like to speak to me, you can email me at imyyforyou@yahoo.com. i look forward to any emails, and i hope to share my thoughts/feelings with other people who know where i am coming from. i also don't mind sharing more about my life, and i always enjoy new friends. i don't know many guy-anorexics, but if you're out there, please read this, and hopefully this will let you know you're not alone. Thanks, and God bless, Matt.

Anonymous said...

My best friend died from anorexia when I was five. She was my babysitter, and I often wished she was my mother. As an adult now I am still not over it, and still wish that she had lived on and adopted me. I miss her everyday. For anyone else who may be suffering with this disease silently, please speak up. There are people out there who love and care about you. They want to help you, and will if you let them try.

Rhiannon said...

I'm an 18 year old girl who has been suffering from anorexia nervosa since i was about 15. I have been through many hospital admissions in both public and private hospitals, all of which were against my wishes. I believe I learned to become a "better anorexic" throughout these admission, which made it all the more harder to escape it!... about 3 months ago I was admitted into hospital again close to death, although this was againt my wishes and I fought my hardest to try get out, I am greatful for the people who cared enough to admit me when they did!, If not for these people I probably wouldn't be writing this now!...Although I am still in hospital restoring my weight, I am able to look back and see how much I do not want to go there again...This admission has been one of the hardest and torturest things I've ever been through, but with a hell of a lot of hard work and determination I am able to say that I am in a better place, I never in my wildest imaginations thought that I would be able to eat the foods that I eat and do the things that I do now...Every day is still a huge battle for me, and I still have a long way to go, but I'm hopeful this time will be the last time!!...I still struggle emensely everyday with food and my body image, and I belive the voices in my head will always remain; but I believe I have a greater strength in me now to be able to overpower those painful voices and get on with a life that I've always wanted!!...I know I don't show it to the people that are helping me, but I truely am greatful for your help, it's just really hard to allow myself to say that right now! To anyone out there suffering, it truely is a long haul, a long and painful road with many up's and down's, but take it from me, I've been at the lowest point in life, and 3 months down the track I've found hope! Eventually with strength, determination and hard work you will to!!..."Feel the fear...But do it anyway"!

GodsKid said...

God bless us all.

Cher said...

Dear All,
My cousin died this week of anorexia nervosa. She was 50, a green-eyed beauty, wife and mother of three. Educated, accomplished, pillar of her community and loved by all. Piano teacher, singer, painter and most excellent cook.
I was allowed to see her after she died and it was far from skinny or beautiful. Anorexia demons lie to people and rob them of their self-esteem. After getting skinny, her belly bloated and she looked very pregnant. Her pallor was orange and purple. Skinny may happen first but it is fleeting: death and disfigurement are the permanent prices people pay. If you can just sip on veggie broth and eat small amounts of rice, that is a big start. Getting professional help is the only way to find your true self. My cousin lived in a rural area and she was subjected to ignorant professionals, fuel she used to stay out of the hospital until it was too late. Get help now. If you have diabetes, you get help. This is a disease and you can get better.

caroline said...

My beautiful daughter died 4 months ago aged 16. She never wanted to be thin and hated the way she looked. She was putting on weight fast and was so happy and excited that she was putting on weight. She was only thin for about 3 months! She had suddenly developed an allergy to wheat on her 16th birthday and had become scared of food. She was therefore not a "typical" anorexic. She got a bug and was taken to the GP for an overall exam. Two days later she had died. No one ever said that she stood a chance of dying and I am totally devastated and heart broken by our loss. Why didn't any one warn us? I would have whisked her into hospital immediately. But she was still eating right up until she died as she was determined not to loose her weight gain. I feel so useless as I am sure her death could have been prevented if only someone had said something.
Sorry. I have not been able to find anywhere to write about this before now.
Caroline

virginia said...

MY DAUGHTER IS DYING FROM ANOREXIA. WE HAVE HAD HER IN TREATMENT CENTERS ( 2 OF THEM) AS WELL AS HAD HER IN A STATE HOSPITAL.SHE WAS SENT HOME AND CONTINUED WITH SAME ROUTINE NOT EATING OR DRINKING ANY FOOD OR LIQUIDS, SHE IS A MOTHER OF AN 18 AND 14 YEAR OLD BOY. SHE NOT ABSOLUTELY REFUSES TO GO BACK TO THE HOSPITAL. WE DID RECENTLY GET HER ADMITTED TO A PSYCH HOSPITAL AND THE PHYSICIAN SENT HER HOME AND SHE HAS NOT EATEN OR DRINK ANY LIQUIDS SINCE SHE CONTINUALLY EXERCISEDS AND TAKES LAXATIVES. I FOUND A LOT OF LAXATIVES IN HER BATHROOM WHILE SHE WAS HOSPITALIZED. WE CAN NOT GET ANY HELP FROM PHYSICIANS OR JUDGES IN OUR COUNTY. HER BOYS ARE CONSTANTLY TELLING US WE HAVE TO GET HELP FOR HER. THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND WE HAVE EXHAUSTED EVERY AVENUE IN SEEKING HELP FOR HER. ANY SUGGESTIONS WOULD BE GREATLY WELCOMED
VIRGINIA

eating disorder hope said...

Dear Virginia,
I am sorry to hear of the suffering your daughter and your family have endured as a result of her struggle with anorexia. It sounds heartbreaking. I commend you for enduring all of this and still reaching out for help. I have seen cases where the individual was considered highly unlikely to recover and seemed committed to anorexia even if it meant her death. And, I have seen some cases when they have turned it around and are now healthy and contributing members of society. So, I want you to remain cautiously optimistic and continue to have hope. There are some excellent treatment centers available that might be the key to your precious daughter's recovery.
I suggest you consider contacting the treatment centers that have sponsored this website. They are: Rader Programs, Remuda Ranch, Rogers Memorial Hospital and Avalon Hills. All of their contact info can be found by clicking on the sponsors page and their banners there, will click thru to their websites. The sponsors page is at: http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/sponsors.html . Additionally, many of the treatment centers advertising on this website are well worth contacting, too. They can all be found on the Treatment page of the Eating Disorder Hope website at: http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-providers.html.
I encourage you to discuss your daughter's reluctance to seek treatment with the intake staff of the sponsors mentioned beforehand, and they may be able to suggest ways to encourage your daughter to seek the treatment she so desperately needs. It will take some leg work of making these calls, but it is sure worth not leaving any stone unturned in trying to save her life. You may also want to discuss the possiblities of guardianship with an attorney. I cannot provide legal advice, but think it would be useful for you to be as informed as possible about your options in seeking treatment for your daughter.
God bless you, her boys and I will be hoping and praying that a solution unfolds for you all.

Warmly,

Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Anonymous said...

Well not that long ago I found out about one of my cousins that has anorexia is in the hospital right now trying to live but is very week and cannot even talk. I tried talking to her on the phone and couldn't even understand what she was saying all i heard right is that she was thirsty and i had to let her go because the priest was in the room trying to talk to her. this is going to be the second cousin i loose over eating disorders.