Warning: The image below could be triggering for someone suffering from an eating disorder.
After an outpouring of support in response to a campaign for financial assistance, Rachael Farrokh raised nearly $200,000 to cover costs for exercise bulimia and anorexia treatment. On Monday, the former sales executive and aspiring actress posted a YouTube video thanking donors for their generosity. “You can say we didn’t have a normal Memorial Day weekend,” said Farrokh, 37, during a telephone interview with Women in the World. “It’s been like a whirlwind.”
Farrokh posted a video plea for help in April and opened a GoFundMe page asking the online community to raise money for her treatment at ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders in Denver, one of the only treatment facilities Farrokh and her husband said would admit her. However, Farrokh’s husband, Rod Edmondson, says her physician has instead suggested home treatment to rehab from her extremely fragile state. She currently weighs around “40-something pounds.”
“In Denver you’re looking at high altitudes and there is a number of different factors that are there,” said Edmondson, citing worries over the potential complications he believes the thin air could cause.
But a doctor from the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders said Denver’s high altitude isn’t cause for any extra concern. “In my experience, there is absolutely no contraindication to receiving care for anorexia nervosa at altitude,” said Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani, a certified eating disorder specialist and assistant medical director of ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders. (Gaudiani, it should be noted, has not examined Farrokh and is not providing her with medical care.) In fact, 20 percent of the center’s patients arrive by air ambulance, a cost often covered by insurance, Gaudiani said. “We have a terrific track record of making sure that medically fragile or weak patients are transported safely to ACUTE rather than languishing in a local, possibly in-expert, hospital setting,” said Gaudiani in a telephone interview with Women in the World.
The ACUTE center was founded seven years ago by Dr. Philip Mehler, who is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the medical complications of eating disorders. The treatment facility is the nationwide referral center for the medical stabilization of adults that have critically severe eating disorders, so severe that they are unable to undergo treatment at top mental health facilities.
“The reason that those settings, who have the integrity to say ‘you’re too sick for me’ would say that is because when a patient is too ill to walk safely, when she has dangerously low heart-rate or blood sugar, when her liver and bone marrow are in failure, or when she has critically low electrolytes, even the best programs with top mental health programing and mental health nurses and physicians, don’t treat those things. Those are medical problems,” said Gaudiani.
Farrokh and Edmondson said the treatment at their home in San Clemente, California, will include a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist to help with swallowing, and a Tomatis therapist. “That’s kind of like a cognitive therapy, it deals with your audio sensory,” Edmondson explained. They told Women in the World that Farrokh’s doctor would be corresponding with the Denver center while Farrokh receives treatment at home, but Dr. Gaudiani said that she and ACUTE do not provide consultation from afar. “We believe that the integrity of the care we offer fundamentally relies on having a personal, immediate interaction with the patient in our center,” she said.
Edmondson said Farrokh’s home care team is expected to arrive and set up by the end of the week. In the meantime, Farrokh will continue to be supported at home by Edmondson who administers her medicine and meals, which are primarily protein shakes. “She’s having about three to four shakes a day,” said Edmondson. “Our goal right now is to make sure she is stable without making a huge jump, because that can be dangerous at this level,” he said.
Eating disorders are particularly difficult to treat. While those suffering are not substance abusers, the daily temptation they experience can be compared to a struggling alcoholic forced to dine with shots of a favorite alcohol above their plate. “That’s exactly what my patients face with every meal, the temptation to restrict just a little. The temptation to use eating disorder behaviors to soothe those hurts of the soul,” said Gaudiani. Those with critical eating disorders also face extremely high risks of death, upwards of 45 times their age-matched peers, Gaudiani pointed out. “Their only chance for recovery is to admit, without hesitation, to an appropriate level of in-patient medical care. Receiving care at home is not indicated,” she said.
The ACUTE center treats patients ages 17 and above. A quarter of the center’s patients are over 40 years of age. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can find support by calling the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237.