Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Canada: The Very Brink of Death

Eating Disorders are brain-based, biological illnesses with a strong genetic component. They are not disorders of choice, vanity or family dysfunction. As with autism and schizophrenia, we don't know everything, but we do know we were wrong about a lot for a very long time. Help us challenge stigma and fight for resource parity for these deadly disorders!


My name is Tara & I live with my husband and two daughters Hannah (16) & Quinn (11) on Vancouver Island, BC.  Our oldest daughter was diagnosed with anorexia in November 2012 at the age of 14.

Prior to diagnosis our family led a “normal” life, we worked, took our girls to extracurricular events, socialized with friends, volunteering at school functions etc.  When we had days off together you would find us up the mountain or a beach spending time together, enjoying life.

November 19, 2012 a simple call from the school reporting Hannah had missed a class created a string of events that blew Hannah's secret open.  Quickly I was seeing clearly the answers to all the nagging question that I had been asking myself.  Hannah had an eating disorder.  Life as we knew it was about to take a drastic change.

In less than a week we had seen our family doctor and agreed and diagnosed Hannah with anorexia. Her name was being referred to those who could help.

Two and a half month later, intake information appointment at MCFD only to be sent somewhere else, referrals to psychiatrist and dietician still sit on the wait lists, numerous calls to ED organizations, a private ED treatment center (we did not meet age criteria) Hannah was sicker than I ever dreamed possible.  My daughter was dying and nobody could help, we were on the wait list.

Feb 8, 2013 I looked into Hannah's eyes and saw death, our doctor saw it and told her.  I was scared, he was scared and the ED wanted to take Hannah from us. Still on the wait list at BCCH for a consultation appointment, I could not wait for help from them.  Armed with Gatorade and Boost, blankets to keep Hannah warm and our doctor’s home phone number I spent the next week at Hannah’s side, pleading with her to take a sip every few minutes. I slept with her at night so I could keep a hand on her chest so I would know immediately if she stopped breathing.  Her breathing so shallow I hardly slept for days because I thought every breath was her last.

We were finally seen at BCCH mid-March.  I had taken a leave from work to be home full time to refeed Hannah.  We as a family (and it is a full family effort) had managed to pull her out of the critical medical state she had been in.  We had her eating food and she was gaining weight.  BCCH added us to their out patient program.  We would travel back and forth to Vancouver once a week.

Eight months of outpatient treatment and they are comfortable to discharge her as a patient.  I have confidence in our family doctor and I have secured a therapist at NARSF in Nanaimo.  I hope and pray we will continue on the recovery road.

Things are okay(ish) for the next while, Hannah struggles but is stable and she likes her therapist who she sees and has returned to school.  Few months later her therapist must leave for personal reasons, there is no replacement. I now fight for somebody new; I'm stuck in a government nightmare of boundary lines.  There is nobody to see in Nanaimo & Duncan is not our catchment area.  Few months later the position at NARSF has been filled.  We hope that there is a connection between Hannah and her new therapist.

The last year has been a constant struggle to keep Hannah stronger than the Eating Disorder.  It haunts her and is gaining strength.  We continue to fight for appropriate treatment and programs. We are unable to access some programs because we live a five-minute walk north of a boundary line, she is unable to attend school because of severe anxieties, and her therapist isn't connecting.

As February 8 approaches, the day I have named “Living Day”, the day almost two years ago Hannah surrendered enough to follow my lead and take a sip of Gatorade then another and then one of Boost and lived through the day, as that day approaches I am scared. I am scared because this nightmare is not yet over, relapse is strong and two nights ago I saw ED alive and well in Hannah, she refused to eat. Today I try to make arrangements to have her put on a wait list for a program that she is not yet old enough to participate in, but maybe by the time she turns 17 her name will be at the top of the list . . . I am unable to write an end to this yet but I know what I am fighting for and I hope our families next 'Living Day' will be one to enjoy.

1 comment :

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