Monday 10 October 2011

It's 12 months since Ben turned a corner...

12 months ago Ben was sitting in front of our CAMHS team. For the first time since he'd started treatment eight months before, they came down like a tonne of bricks and insisted Ben increase his weight, starting immediately. The reason? The previous day Ben had collapsed at school and been rushed to hospital again with a dangerously low pulse rate... the second time this had happened in eight months.

Not only this but he'd completely freaked out in the hospital: 'ED rage' at its worst and most violent, kicking stuff around, swearing, shouting, fighting and trying to discharge himself by running out of the hospital. In fact it was so bad that he'd had to be physically restrained by medical staff, security and eventually, outside the hospital in full view of a gawping public, the police.

The ED rage had a side-effect in that it brought his pulse rate back up to an acceptable level. The medical staff ideally wanted to admit him again for observation, but now that his pulse rate was back up, he was eventually discharged - but on the condition that he undergo regular ECG and blood tests at our GPs' surgery.

The following day CAMHS took all of this very seriously. The atmosphere was completely different with direct, straight-talking along the likes of "we insist you do X or there is a real chance you could end up in hospital". They explained to him, why, with his pulse rate so low, they might not need to wait until his BMI was sufficiently low enough to warrant admission to the eating disorder unit; they could act sooner if they needed to. I remember the word "sectioning" being used...

Ben had been losing weight consistently since the beginning of May: five months of steady weight loss. Up to this latest heart scare, the advice had simply been to "experiment" to see what worked and what didn't until he learned how to "make the right choices" which would, hopefully and eventually, turn things around.

But all five months of "experimenting" had achieved was consistent weight loss. By the beginning of October 2010, Ben's weight was lower than it had ever been, even lower than when I had first taken him to our GP 13 months before.

Low heart rates are seen quite frequently in people suffering from anorexia because of the damage that starvation causes to the heart muscle. CAMHS explained to Ben their concern that his body was literally beginning to "eat itself" and this could result in long-term if not permanent damage - or worse.

Although I was worried sick about these implications, I was also thrilled that CAMHS were finally taking things seriously enough to say "Enough is enough". And it must have hit a nerve with Ben, especially as he hated hospitals with a vengeance by now. Additionally, he'd always told me that he could control his weight so it never got low enough to warrant admission to the unit. Now CAMHS were implying they could admit him right now if they felt he was in danger. Ben (or, rather, the anorexia that had taken Ben over) hadn't banked on that...

From that moment onwards Ben turned a corner, quite dramatically and visibly. In fact. 12 months on, although we've had our ups and downs, he is still doing in the right direction. And, touch wood, his pulse rate continues to be healthy.

Also, despite not always seeing eye to eye, CAMHS and I got along a heck of a lot better after that point. Not only did I feel they were taking Ben's condition seriously, they were taking my concerns seriously as well.

So that's what we were doing 12 months ago.

A blessing in disguise?

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