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It is possible to recover from an eating disorder, says a 15-year-old patient who sought care from the inpatient eating disorders program at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

Mind above Matter: Inside the Shadow Pandemic of Pediatric Eating Disorders

The pandemic has plunged many young people into crisis. Prolonged periods of social isolation, a disconnection from usual routines and, in many cases, a new normal for family dynamics lead to the growth of increasingly unbalanced, unhealthy, worrying and dangerous habits.

The nationally recognized Pediatric Eating Disorders program at McMaster Children’s Hospital sees unprecedented numbers of children and youth arriving at hospital with serious mental and physical health issues; a trend that should continue in the future.

This is the second exhibit in a three-part series highlighting eating disorder diagnosis and treatment from three different and unique perspectives: the provider, the patient and the parent, and the program administration.


Part 2: “Eating disorders are now part of our history, not our daily life,” says mother of teenage patient

It is possible to recover from an eating disorder, says a 15-year-old patient who sought care from the Inpatient Eating Disorders Program at Hamilton Health Sciences’ McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH).

“Don’t wait for help,” says the patient’s mother, “and trust your instincts. Eating disorders are not a life sentence. There is great care available and there is hope.

The patient and her mother cited in this article have requested that their names not be published. However, they both wanted to share their story in the hopes that their post and their family’s journey with an eating disorder diagnosis could help others facing a similar situation.

The trip

The patient’s mother said she could tell her daughter was suffering from an eating disorder. She ate very little and was very strict about her food choices. She was exercising all the time.

“If she waited for the bus, she would go around in circles trying to take all her steps,” recalls Mom. “It was scary to see our child as sick as she was.”

Looking back, the patient remembers a turning point when things really started to change.

“I went to a birthday party and we had a cake. I came home and felt so disgusting. I decided that from then on I would start to change, ”she said.

At the age of 13, about a year after the birthday party, the patient’s family brought her for an assessment at the Children’s.

She was admitted to the eating disorder inpatient program the same day, which is the typical journey of patients deemed too medically unstable to return home. She stayed for almost four weeks.

The diagnosis left a deep mark on the whole family.

“I think it was quite difficult for them. My siblings didn’t really understand what was going on. My mother ended up sleeping in a chair with me for the first two nights, ”says the patient. “The nurses gave our family a book explaining what was going on, which was helpful. “

This was in June 2019. Over the next two years, she would continue to have follow-up visits with a social worker, dietitian and her doctor.

“You are separated from your eating disorder. “

MCH hospitalization program

Program staff gave her clear messages and strategies to manage her mental and physical health.

“And so the message of hope is that it is possible to pull yourself together,” says the patient. “You are separated from your eating disorder. “

She also remembers the friendliness of the staff.

“Whenever my parents weren’t there, they came to keep me company. I still remember some of the conversations we had and I use them to motivate me to stay fit, even today, ”she says. “Whenever I needed something, they were always there to get it. One of them painted my nails and another braided my hair. They were awesome. “

Meals were a stressful time, her mother says, but she learned to imitate some of the strategies she learned from the program staff at home, such as being distracted or giving her daughter a sensory toy like putty to play with. his hands.

“They supported me a lot with meal times,” recalls the patient. “They had to sit down but they always knew what to do. Sometimes they would put on a show with me, other times they would talk to me through it.

“I didn’t want to start the program at all,” she says. “But now I’m very happy I went because I don’t know how things would be today. I have the impression that this is ultimately what initiated the change.

“A very important step”

The patient had her last medical exam in November 2021 to complete the program. She is doing very well and will continue to see a counselor outside of the MCH’s eating disorders program.

His family is very proud.

“It was really nice to focus on my daughter and not have to fight for her care. The program was ultimately a very important step in her healing journey, ”says her mother. “Thanks to the good care we received at the MCH, eating disorders are now part of our history, not our daily life. And that’s something to celebrate.

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