The Mildred Creak Unit case studies and feedback
A former Mildred Creak Unit (MCU) patient, now 20, and studying at university shared her story with Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
"When I was eight-years-old, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. At the time I was too young to understand what this thing was and why it was controlling my life. To me, having the thoughts and feelings I had towards food and my weight was normal.
"Out of desperation I was taken to the doctors for guidance on how to make me better. They offered me information about the disease and help with how to overcome it. However, I only had one goal - to lose weight which I thought could only be accomplished by not eating.
"Visiting the doctor sporadically to be weighed and to monitor my meal plan meant that I wasn’t being observed all the time and I could get away with not eating. At school I would over exercise in the playground, which looked normal for a child. At home I wouldn’t eat, my parents would get angry but when you tell a child not to do something, they often push the boundaries and do it more. This all meant my weight was dropping and that the illness had taken over my mind and body. I didn’t realise I was so ill and had no idea how to manage it. Neither did my parents.
"On my ninth birthday I was admitted to my local hospital. I had hit rock bottom and was uncontrollable. Every day I had to battle with myself, I couldn’t see or understand what everyone was so worried about. I still didn’t know what anorexia was. I just needed to be skinny. It soon got to the point that my local hospital couldn’t help me. At this point I was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
"I was told I would be living on the Mildred Creak Unit (MCU), away from my parents. I thought I could trick the hospital into thinking I was well and okay. However, the MCU offered so much encouragement and support. I had found a place separate from my home where my illness could be confronted and defeated. The staff at the hospital helped me understand what my illness was and made me realise why I needed to overcome it. A fresh start was exactly what I needed to get better.
"The staff on the unit are amazing. They made a homelike environment and you got to know them. It was good to have familiar faces; they become your friends which creates safety and trust. I also made lifelong friends with the other children on the unit, they’re the reason I got better. Their inspiration, support and understanding will stick with me whenever I feel like I need some guidance or help.
"The unit was also a safe place for my family. My parents were able to learn about my illness and they could also get support and express their feelings. There was a parents group at the unit, where parents would meet up and talk about the experiences they were going through. The advice and support they received was amazing. My parents were also included and made aware of how I was doing, and would come and visit in the evenings.
"Overall, my journey had many ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change it. The MCU was the place I needed to be. It gave me friends, support, guidance, life lessons and will help me for the rest of my life. I learned that I am strong, and can accomplish a lot if I set my mind to it. While on the unit I discovered art therapy, which gave me a place to escape and relax. Now, I study illustration at university. Thank you to the MCU and everyone I met. You saved me, and made me who I am today. I will never forget you."
A former patient has been kind enough to make a wonderful podcast about family experiences of a child's admission to the Mildred Creak Unit.
Another former patient has told their story in a documentary for Irish radio. You can listen to this on the following link: radio broadcast