Walk feeds Sarah’s need to help eat­ing dis­or­der clinic

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Gemma Red­dell

Stu­dent Sarah Stevens is walk­ing about 20 kilo­me­tres from Red Beach to Army Bay to raise money for a clinic in Syd­ney which she says changed her life.

Sarah, 17, who at­tends KingsWay School in Orewa, spent three and a half months at the Peter Beu­mont Cen­tre for Eat­ing Dis­or­ders at Wes­ley Pri­vate Hospi­tal in Syd­ney.

She was di­ag­nosed with an eat­ing dis­or­der late last year, and was hos­pi­talised twice, the sec­ond time for seven weeks to sta­bilise her weight af­ter hit­ting 34kg.

“That was a to­tal low point,” Sarah says.

“There were all sorts of peo­ple in there with me, and I didn’t re­ally re­ceive any help. I was just mon­i­tored be­cause my weight was so low.”

She dis­cov­ered she had neu­tropoe­nia, where her white blood cells were so low that her im­mune sys­tem was down, and also se­vere de­hy­dra­tion.

“They had to get my weight sta­ble at around 40kg so I could get to Syd­ney, to make sure I was the min­i­mum weight to get in. There was too much of a risk that if I went home I might get worse, so they kept me in there un­til I went.”

The Peter Beu­mont Cen­tre for Eat­ing Dis­or­ders was the only op­tion for Sarah.

It is dif­fi­cult to get in­pa­tient treat­ment for eat­ing dis­or­ders in New Zealand.

A pri­vate hospi­tal in Dunedin only ac­cepts adults, and fo­cuses on men­tal ill­nesses such as de­pres­sion and bipo­lar dis­or­der.

Seven pub­licly funded beds at Princess Mar­garet Hospi­tal in Christchurch are un­avail­able to North Is­lan­ders.

Sarah was put on a wait­ing list as a top pri­or­ity case for the Syd­ney clinic, and was ac­cepted in March.

The Waitem­ata District Health Board funded her treat­ment, air­fares, trans­port and ac­com­mo­da­tion for her mum for the 14 weeks, and a visit from her dad, twin brother Paul and sis­ter Anna, 15.

“That was amaz­ing,” Sarah says.

“We wouldn’t have been able to af­ford it oth­er­wise.”

Sarah, who ar­rived from Eng­land two and a half years ago, was an in­pa­tient and had in­ten­sive treat­ment which didn’t al­low her to go out­side for a month, ex­cept to sit on a bal­cony a few times.

“We did in­tense ther­apy and a lot of group work, in­clud­ing cog­ni­tive be­hav­iour ther­apy, mo­ti­va­tional en­hance­ment ther­apy, skills for day-to-day life and art ther­apy, which was re­ally fun. We could do paint­ing or photography or col­lage, any­thing that was a way to ex­press our­selves.”

She also went to a nu­tri­tional group to learn about food myths, and a stress tol­er­ance group to man­age anx­i­ety and stress.

“Once we were sta­ble we were al­lowed to do a low level aer­o­bics class. It worked on a re­ward ba­sis. When the week­end came, if we had gained a cer­tain amount of weight we were al­lowed to spend time with friends or fam­ily, but not for the first few weeks.”

Sarah was al­lowed vis­i­tors be­tween 4pm and 8pm daily, and af­ter four weeks moved to the day pro­gramme.

“The day pro­gramme has much more free­dom,” she says. “You got to go home at night and had the week­ends to your­self.”

They went out for lunch and had morn­ing tea alone so they got used to eat­ing by them­selves.

The last stage was a three­day pro­gramme, which in­volved more free­dom.

“Be­cause I had a bit of de­pres­sion I was scared about the fu­ture, so that was hard,” says Sarah who was the only New Zealan­der at­tend­ing at the time.

Pa­tients ranged in age from 14 to 64.

Sarah was weighed four times a week, and she says it was sur­pris­ingly hard to gain weight.

“I had to eat huge amounts, like twice as much as what my dad eats at home, be­cause my body was not used to food and my me­tab­o­lism had slowed right down. When I did eat it stored it all up re­ally fast and burnt all the fat, so I had to eat a lot.”

She says it was a tough time for her fam­ily.

“It was hugely stress­ful on my fam­ily, on my par­ents and Paul and Anna. My sib­lings came over twice and my dad swapped with my mum for a week so I got to see every­one, which was re­ally good.”

Her par­ents have joined the Eat­ing Dis­or­der As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand, and the group is work­ing with the district health board to­wards get­ting a sim­i­lar clinic in Auck­land.

Sarah says she has come a long way this year.

“Some peo­ple say you can com­pletely get over it and some say you just learn to mas­ter it. I think you can get over it to a cer­tain de­gree, but there’s al­ways the risk that it’s go­ing to be there.”

She is hop­ing peo­ple will spon­sor her walk to raise money for the pro­gramme.

“I want to do as much as pos­si­ble for them. Peo­ple can come in to get help daily here but there is noth­ing like this in New Zealand.

“I know how much this place did for me, and I want it to be the best equipped it pos­si­bly could be to do the same for other peo­ple. The money will go to­wards any­thing that they need to do this the best they can.”

Sarah is do­ing the fundrais­ing walk on Sun­day, Novem­ber 20, at noon.

To spon­sor her phone (09) 426-4844 or email beau­ti­ful stars@hot­mail.co.uk.

Fundrais­ing walk: Sarah Stevens, cen­tre, is rais­ing money for the Peter Beu­mont Cen­tre for Eat­ing Dis­or­ders in Syd­ney by walk­ing from Red Beach to Army Bay on Novem­ber 20. Her twin brother Paul, left, and sis­ter Anna, 15, will walk with her.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.