So what does being hospitalized for ED look like?
When I was first hospitalized at 16, I was in shock but also in disbelief that the doctors determined I was too unwell to NOT be hospitalized. I was emaciated but didn’t think that I looked like a skeleton and I was still eating. An eating disordered clinic out of Stanford University is where my mom took me to be evaluated. They weighed me (99 lbs), asked me some questions and then gave me a couple pop quizzes… like count back from the number 7. I understand that they do that because if you are malnourished, your brain does not fire quickly, but really??! Counting backward from 7 in general is already hard! The doctors told my mom that I needed to be admitted right away and if she did not take me, then they would send an ambulance to take me.
Once at the hospital I was given my own room and my vitals and blood were taken every 5 hours (something like that) for the first few days. Mainly I just remember how exhausted I was but was still woken up in the middle of the night to have my blood drawn and then once again at 5am. I think for about the first three nights they watched me like a hawk and several times had to have an EKG in the middle of the night because my heart rate was too low (under 30bpm).
The first week I was put on Boost- a nutritional shake. Boost is actually quite tasty-only the chocolate one though. I remember my mom and I being somewhat confused that I was drinking 3-4 shakes per day and not real food. Finally we complained and they assured us that they have to slowly reintroduce nutrients and adding solid food would happen in time. So I think after the 6th day of drinking boost, I was put on a regular meal plan which was torture. Nurses were stationed near your bed and made sure you ate every single piece of food. One time I had a yogurt but did not realize that there were blueberries at the bottom. I HATE yogurt that comes already with fruit in it and I almost threw up trying to eat those nasty blueberries. I thought my male nurse would give me some slack, but nope! Another time my parents were eating dinner with me and I think I chose canned tuna and salad among other stuff (there was a carb in there somewhere) and I was SO full I started to whine and cry. But you had to eat every last bite; it was torture.
After the 4th day I was moved into a different room with three other girls. You were not allowed to go into the bathroom or take showers so I used a lot of dry shampoo and held in my poop for most days (you pooped in a toilet chair near your bed). I stayed to myself and did not engage with the other girls. I didn’t feel like I had much in common with them. One girl ONLY ate kidney beans and then complained that she was constipated all the time; another girl was there on her third try; it made me want to get out of there quick! So other than family and a couple friends visiting me, I mainly watched TV, did homework, knitted and some days talked with a therapist.
On the twelfth day I was ready to be discharged. It almost was a no go because they allowed me to take a shower in my room, but the water never got warm, so I just sucked it up and washed really quickly. But the cold water messed with my vitals so they were concerned my vitals were too off for me to go home. Luckily they gave it a couple hours and my vitals went back to normal. After that I was required to stay on bed rest for one more week and then I was allowed to go back to high school. I was not allowed to exercise and had to follow a strict meal plan. I was 115 lbs when I went back to my Junior year of high school.
Being hospitalized was pretty awful, but it was the start of me being able to get back on track. Like I have said before, it was fortunate that I was underage when this happened to me; I was forced to go because I was not 18. For that, I am grateful. For some women who are fighting for their lives, they are old enough to make the decision to not get help which can be detrimental to their health. It takes a strong and courageous woman for her to admit that she needs help on her own and then go seek that help. If that is you, kudos to you girlfriend (or dude).