Melanie C with therapy dog

Melanie C.: Finally Feeling Free From Eating Disorder

ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders and Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health Helps Patient End 14-Year Struggle

Years... for years I felt like I was the only one in the world going through what I was going through. I felt sick, helpless, sad, alone and most of all hopeless. At 26 years old, I had already been battling my eating disorder for 14 years. After many failed attempts in inpatient facilities, residential treatment programs and partial programs, I was beginning to lose faith that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I was accomplished in so many ways, but my eating disorder was full-blown and affecting my daily life. The anorexia and use of laxatives was my only friend. I knew I needed to do something. 

The weekend prior to my arrival at the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders and Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health, I laid in bed for 48 hours straight – throwing up, running to the bathroom every hour on the hour with diarrhea, and shaking from my electrolytes being so out of whack. I prayed all night that something bad wouldn’t happen to me. I prayed that I wouldn't have a heart attack, a stroke, a seizure and not to go into cardiac arrest. I prayed my kidneys wouldn't fail and that I wouldn't need dialysis one day – something my doctor told me was possible if I didn't get help now. I made a promise – a promise that if I made it through the night I would call ACUTE, a hospital treatment program that treats the most severe eating disorder patients with medical complications and ask them to help me. That next day I booked a flight and I left for Denver, Colorado. 

I flew halfway across the country and found my light at the end of tunnel. The day of my admission to ACUTE, I was so excited. I was excited because I knew that this would be my saving grace. I was greeted with a wheelchair and smiles; and in that wheelchair I felt all of my worries wash away. My gut told me I was in the right place. 

After five years of excessive laxative abuse, I was both nervous and ready for the pain of coming off of them. For days, my body swelled up and I developed a condition known as edema. Getting used to my new body was a struggle, but the clinicians and staff at ACUTE made each day more bearable than the last. Everyone was there to help me get better and ensure that a relapse would be unlikely. Each day I found myself getting stronger both mentally and physically – the edema was starting to come off! With the help of ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders and Severe Malnutrition Medical Director Philip Mehler, M.D. and the amazing physicians, dieticians, physical therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers – I was able to tackle the first part of my recovery. 

Having been on hundreds of laxatives for so many years, I had no idea how my colon was going to work. I got lucky. I remember the third day into my stay at ACUTE, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. Could this be it? Yes. I had my first solid bowel movement in almost six years. It was nothing short of a small miracle. I cried.

Now, I am still here at ACUTE, but beginning to prepare for discharge. I find myself having feelings unlike every other discharge I’ve had from an eating disorder program. This time I do not have the urge to leave and restrict and abuse laxatives again. This time I find myself ready to enjoy all that this world has to offer. For the first time in 14 years, I feel FREE. Thank you to everyone at ACUTE who has made this feeling possible. I could not be getting through this like I am without your care and help!

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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