Brave mum opens her heart about daughter’s battle with killer eating disorder - and her long fight back to health.
For her school prom Shona Wilson wore a ten-year old child’s dress. She smiled brightly for her photograph, but was confined to a wheelchair and had a tube feeding in to her nose.
Then aged 16, Shona was on a day pass from hospital. She was suffering from anorexia nervosa, and weighed less than six stone.
Shona spent eight months in hospital after she was admitted to the Becton Centre at Doncaster Royal Infirmary as an emergency admission in March last year.
Now 17, bright-eyed and glowing, the teen still suffers health problems, but hopes to pursue a future nursing career.
At her lowest point, the Rossington teenager was almost skeletal, was fed intravenously, and her body was in danger of a total shutdown.
The onset of the disorder came during a difficult period when Shona was 15, said mum, Cathy, of Bankwood Crescent: “She was always a picky eater, but it got to a stage when she was never hungry. People began to notice. I knew something was wrong but the doctors dismissed it. I struggled to get help.”
“One time I rang helplines for two days, but no-one seemed to want to know. I was at my wits end.”
“I used to get weighed at school when I was 14,” said Shona who is 5’6”. I was eight-and-a-half stone. I didn’t want to be thin. Eating just seemed a bad thing.”
An abcess on her hip led to an infection, and what seemed to be a “pattern of being poorly” said her mum.
“Shona couldn’t keep food down. She once lost several pounds in two days.
“It was dismissed as a teen phase,” said Cathy, 43. When we finally saw a dietitian Shona was put on high calorie foods. She was told she could end up in hospital. In March last year Shona was taken in to the Becton Centre and later sectioned. She was made to understand that her life was in danger, but her weight continued to fall.
“I made four friends and we talked about everything,” said Shona. “But I always had this voice in my head telling me not to eat, making me feel bad things would happen. One nurse called the voice Donna. I was told to shout at her to go away.”
A tube-feed became inevitable. Shona said: “I would try to squeeze it to stop it.” At that point her liver and kidneys were struggling to cope and she developed heart issues.
A talk with a senior psychologist last September finally broke Shona’s mindtrack. “He shouted at me. He said I’d got to get the tube out and eat for myself or die. He said it in a way that meant something. It was my turning point,” said Shona, who described her condition as “horrible, lonely and overwhelming.”
Her mother still recalls the first time she saw her daughter eating. “I cried, and staff at the Becton Centre cried. There are still difficulties but that was the start of a recovery,” she said.
Cathy feels well supported by the Doncaster Children and Young People’s Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
She said: “Anorexia is misunderstood. If anyone suspects it they must beg for help. The body goes down so quickly.”
Doncaster NHS Trust advises speaking to GPs, school nurses or social workers if there are concerns.
But worried parents can contact the duty team at RDaSH CAMHS by calling 01302 304070.
*There is a rise in this area in the number of young people who experience eating disorders.
From this week, a trial scheme means young people aged 14 to 18 can self-refer in to Doncaster CAMHS on the number above, to discuss issues such as low mood, self-harm, social anxiety or others.
The CAMHS service has seen an increase in the number of young people experiencing an eating disorder in Doncaster, and this is in line with a national trend. A recent article in the British medical journal has highlighted an increase rate in eating disorders including anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
The study looked at first time presentation for all eating disorders for ages 10-49.
In the year 2000 there were 32.3 cases per 100000 population recorded, and in 2009 the figure had jumped up to 37.2 cases per 100000 population.
Signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa
The sufferer becomes increasingly preoccupied with weight, how they look in the mirror, and what they can and can’t eat. Dieting despite being thin...obsession with calories, fat grams, and nutrition – reading food labels, measuring and weighing portions, keeping a food diary, reading diet books.
Pretending to eat or lying about eating – hiding, playing with, or throwing away food to avoid eating.
Making excuses to get out of meals.