A 12 Year-Old…A Severe Eating Disorder…Life Saving Help
When inpatient treatment is the right choice.
Having a child that is suffering from a serious eating disorder is overwhelming
and frightening. This is especially true if the disorder develops quickly
and without warning. And, unlike other illnesses, eating disorders are
as much psychological as physical — which can make understanding
and treating them even more challenging.
Laura* and her family found themselves in exactly this situation in November
2016 when their pediatrician noticed that their daughter, Nicole*, was
losing weight rapidly and for no apparent physical reason. Within a matter
of weeks, Laura went from parenting a happy and healthy 12 year-old, to
navigating the chaos that comes from having a child with an extreme case
of anorexia nervosa.
Initially, when Nicole was diagnosed, the family enrolled her in therapy
and she began to see a nutritionist. Nicole appeared to stabilize briefly,
but it quickly became obvious that she wasn’t really improving,
and the family needed help to address the underlying causes of her condition.
It was at that point that the Nicole was referred to Dr. Linda Schack,
the head of Torrance Memorial’s Medical Stabilization Program and
one of the country’s foremost experts in adolescent and adult eating
disorders. Weighing only 53 lbs., Nicole was in need of specialized intervention
and Dr. Schack admitted her to the Medical Stabilization Program in early
An Early Intervention Makes All the Difference
At Torrance Memorial the family was able to get the medical and therapeutic
help they needed to stop the terrifying acceleration of Nicole’s
condition, and get her life and health back on track. Dr. Schack and her
team of experts — many with over 20 years of experience treating
people with severe eating disorders — created a personalized program
tailored specifically for Nicole and her needs, treating both the physical
and mental aspects of her disease.
During the two weeks of her inpatient treatment Nicole was stabilized and
started eating. She also began to take tentative steps toward acknowledging
and understanding her condition.
Care, Compassion and Patience
What made this program the right place for Nicole and her family to begin
the first part of their journey toward recovery? Laurabelieves it was
the care, compassion and patience shown by the entire team. As she recalls,
“The nurses and staff could not have been kinder or more attentive
to our needs. Given how young Nicole was, they made a lot of accommodations
In addition to letting me visit during the day, I was able to stay overnight
for the first few nights which made the experience much less scary. They
always put Nicole’s needs front and center during her treatment. “
It was difficult for Nicole to comprehend the seriousness of her condition.
In fact, she was in complete denial. But the staff made a point of including
her, along with her family, in all of their care decisions and when it
came time to discharge Nicole she was part of those planning discussions.
Laurapoints out that the staff made every effort to make Nicole “part
of the solution instead of just the problem.”
Given how young Nicole was at the time she left Torrance Memorial, the
family chose to enroll her in a intensive day treatment program after
her discharge. While Nicole was able return home every evening to sleep,
she was at the treatment program from 7am -7pm, and she had all her meals
in that supervised setting. She was able to complete the program successfully.
Stable and Healing
How is Nicole doing today? Much better, though she still has challenges.
Eating disorders are difficult to treat and Nicole still struggles with
the psychological aspect of her anorexia. But while a full recovery will
take time and a lot of support, Nicole is physically healthy and living
at home; due in large part to the immediate interventional care she received
at Torrance Memorial. Says Maria: “I cannot speak highly enough
of the care we got at Torrance Memorial. It was the best place we could
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality