Rachael is a 37-year-old former actress and was diagnosed with the debilitating disease 10 years ago when she suddenly lost her job. She said it started simply enough — she was just trying to lose a couple of pounds to achieve a flatter stomach. However, eventually her weight loss got out of hand, and over time, she went from a healthy 125 pounds to an alarming 40-something pounds.
She was reluctant to ask for help until now because she didn't want to burden anyone, and admitting she has been struggling with the disease is, needless to say, difficult. However, in recent months, her health has declined so rapidly that she can no longer stay silent. In this heart-wrenching video she posted on YouTube, she asks for money to help fund an expensive treatment that may be her last shot.
As you can see, Rachael no longer has the strength to get around on her own. Her husband, Rod Edmondson, recently had to quit his job to become her full-time caregiver. She has already suffered heart, liver and kidney failure, and the two realize she won't have much time left if she doesn't get help soon.
According to the GoFundMe page Rod started to help save his wife, there's one clinic that specializes in treating severe anorexia — all other hospitals have refused because her extremely low weight is too much of a liability. The process of refeeding is a tricky one, because flooding her with nutrients could actually kill her faster.
Psychotherapist and SheKnows Expert Leora Fulvio who specializes in eating disorder therapy explains, "Her metabolism and heart rate are most likely extremely low, her electrolytes are likely completely off balance and her organs are most likely shutting down. If she were to just start eating, she would most likely just die quickly, either from a heart attack or because her organs were not able to process the food."
Dr. Michael Strober, professor of psychiatry and director at the eating disorder program at the UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, told ABC, "The refeeding syndrome will involve the body's attempt to adapt to sudden introduction of nutrients. ... Too rapid increase of calories can result in the metabolic adaptation, which is associated of a number of hazards, which can be life-threatening." Essentially this means that if she's flooded with nutrients, her metabolism will kick into overdrive, and she'll lose weight even faster.
According to Rachael, when she was last admitted to a hospital and they filled her body with fluids, it began this rapid body deterioration. She told ABC, "When I went to the hospital in January, they flooded me with fluids, and I gained 40 pounds overnight in water weight. That's when my body started shutting down."
Fulvio says, "She needs constant monitoring to insure that she doesn't pass away as she is so close to death. Just moving, walking can be stressful to her heart and cause a heart attack."
But all hope is not lost. The "Rachael's Road to Recovery" fund is now at $58,000, which is more than half its goal of $100,000. This money will go toward her medical bills and cost of rehabilitation. Rod is determined to bring his wife back from the edge. Once recovered, Rachael wants to share her story and help others suffering from the mental illness.
Laura Discipio, a licensed clinical social worker and executive director of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, explained how the illness works to ABC. "Just as you are compelled to go off your diet, they are just compelled to stay on it. Just as you are compelled to eat, they are compelled to restrict. It is a psychiatric, biological illness. It is totally not a choice. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness."
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