Why We Exist
It started innocuously enough – some leftover food on her plate at dinner, an extra work out here and there. Only it didn’t end there. It hasn’t ended.
Eventually, my teenage daughter, Madison, wasted away to a mere 90 pounds from restricted eating and obsessive over exercising. With a heart rate of 32 beats per minute, my beautiful, brilliant girl collapsed and was rushed to the emergency department at the Foothills Hospital. After a 52-hour stay in the emergency department with no available hospital bed, she was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and I was told she would need to be hospitalized.
Devastatingly, there were no beds available in the Eating Disorder (ED) program. Instead, my 16 year old was admitted to the psychiatric ward at the Rockyview Hospital where she received little support for her eating disorder and was released 5 days later. This cycle repeated itself three more times.
Finally, a bed opened up in the ED Program where Madison spent the following six weeks becoming medically stable, meaning that while she was no longer in immediate risk of dying, her illness raged on untreated.
After trying every locally available avenue for treatment, it became apparent that Madison needed more intensive treatment than what was currently being offered. We sought treatment outside of province, where Madison lived in a residential treatment centre for six months. I followed her, of course, quitting my job, trusting that my other child would be fine without me. I rented an apartment close to the treatment centre.
My lost income, my daughter’s medical fees, our expenses relocating for six months – none of this was covered through her medical insurance, but I was desperate to help Madison overcome this deadly disease before it overcame her and our family. The financial costs exceeded $150,000. The emotional costs remain immeasurable.
After maneuvering through the various channels of the health care system, I met many other parents dealing with the same issues. Some of their children had managed to recover through residential treatment outside the province, most were still caught up in the endless cycle of hospital readmissions and temporary stabilization. The parents of male patients had horror stories beyond even what I could imagine.
In 2014, these passionate, like-minded parents, who had been through similar heart-wrenching and difficult journeys, joined to form the Calgary Silver Linings Foundation to address current systemic gap in Alberta in treating eating disorders. Our goal is to establish Alberta’s first residential treatment centre for eating disorders to ensure other families have easier, more affordable and faster access to treatment for their children. Our goal is to save lives.
The name of the foundation reflects the hope that the process of recovery and family therapy, personal foundations and relationships can become stronger and patients and their families can recover – with the proper treatment. Although sometimes difficult to see, there is a silver lining in this journey. A residential treatment centre for Albertans can provide those families caught in the nightmare of trying to save their child from the mental illness with the highest mortality rate with a silver lining – a locally based, affordable treatment program for their children.