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E.D. Contact is a new and positive Information Resource created by and for Families and Individuals living with Eating Distress in Ireland.


Cliona - My time in hospital


In 2000, when I had just turned 16, I spent 4 weeks in hospital. I had been suffering from eating distress for around 12 months at the time and had been visiting a private consultant every 3 months for the previous year. During these visits he weighed me, told me to put on weight and charged the family £80 – that was it.

When it was clear that I was not putting on weight he advised I be put into hospital. I was not sure what to expect and neither was my family. When I arrived at the hospital I was shown my bed by the Ward Sister and informed that I was not allowed to get out of bed for the next few weeks. I was not even to put my feet on the ground. I was to press a bell if I wished to go to the toilet – and a commode would be brought to me. I would wash in a basin every morning at 7.00am . I then told to change into my pyjamas and my family asked to leave while I ate my lunch.

I was so shocked I cried and cried and cried. The ward sister and staff ignored this – the only person who smiled were the catering staff. I changed into my pyjamas and I ate my lunch in between sobs.

The first few days were the worst. To loose all your dignity, freedom and company at once is a shock to the system. I felt so lonely. I had no one to talk to. Aged just 16yrs in an adult ward of 2 critically ill patients who couldn’t talk and an elderly 80yr old women, I felt very isolated.

My daily routine was up at 7.00am , I was weighted and then washed in the bed side basin.  This was followed by breakfast. Breakfast was brought at 10.00am and lunch at 1.00pm . After 2.00pm my family could visit till 4.30pm and then again after dinner until 8.00pm . Supper and then lights out at 10.00pm . During my time in hospital I was not allowed to get off my bed. I spent all day, every day sitting on my bed from 7am – 10pm and I then lied down and went to sleep. No counsellor or any other person spoke to me during the 4 weeks. The only contact I had with staff was when the nurse who brought the commode or catering lady who brought the food, my consultant during his ward round twice a week and the dietician who visited once a week. At all other times I sat on my bed in silence waiting for 2.00pm so my family could visit or 10pm so another day was over. We live 1 ½ hours from the hospital, my mother was working full time and I have a younger sister. Therefore it was also a very difficult time for my family. They were not provided with any support.

Never once in the four weeks did anyone watch to ensure I ate the food given. Neither did anyone discuss my obvious problem with eating.  However I hated hospital so much that from the moment I entered I always ate what was given to me. I wanted out of the prison so badly. I hated every minute there.

My consultant would visit me twice a week on the ward round and looked at my weight chart. He would then murmur to the ward staff to increase or decrease my portion sizes. He never smiled or was encouraging. He purposely ignored me. I was terrified of him.

One of the worst aspects of being in hospital was not being able to go to the toilet. I had to wait till hospital staff heard the buzzer and came to my bed - when they were busy I might have to wait up to 1/2h. Using the commode was humiliating -  To go to the toilet behind a curtain with the other patients and their visitors listening. I had to ask any visitors of mine to leave if I needed the toilet. On particularly awful experience was when staff forgot to put the basin in the commode - I weed on the floor. It was during visiting times and the cleaners had to come in and disinfect the whole place. I felt so ashamed of myself.

I was told when I had gained half a stone I could go to the toilet. I longed for this simple luxury. After 2 ½ weeks in hospital I reached this “goal.” I was so excited when I was weighted that morning. However I was told that I had to wait to see my consultant during the ward round before I could do this. When he came, I couldn’t help but feel pleased with myself. However he told me that I had to get a wheelchair to the toilet and could only do this once a day. – I felt completely betrayed and disheartened. This was not the terms I had understood. I lost all hope I would ever regain my freedom.

After 4 weeks I finally put on 1 stone and was allowed to go home. Once they weighed me in the morning I was told to get my dad to get my things together in the afternoon and wait to speak to the consultant. He looked at my weight that morning nodded to the staff and that was it. I could go home. There was no discharge plan or advice for my family or me. I walked (for the first time in 4 weeks) out of the hospital with my mum and dad and went home. I felt I had been let out of jail!

I visited the consultant 6 weeks later – he weighed me – I hadn’t put on or lost any weight – he told me to put on weight, charged us £90 and sent us home. I visited him every 3 month for a year and the same routine occurred. My family then found Marino Therapy Centre and decided to stop these visits to the doctor. When I began to go to Marino, for the first time in many years, I began to get a sense of self and an understanding of my behaviour. I began to actually want to care for myself and to feel enthusiasm for life and deal with my problem.  I am now at university and enjoying life immensely. 


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