'I just wanted my daughter to get better': Longton man speaks of daughter's anorexia battle
FOR Michael McGraw, seeing his 26-year-old daughter come close to death with crippling anorexia was a 'devastating' experience.
But now the father-of-four can relax, safe in the knowledge her treatment will be able to continue.
Dental nurse Joanne McGraw has been allowed to receive specialist treatment at St George's hospital in Stafford despite not living within the catchment area after a lengthy appeal.
He said he only realised the full extent of his daughter's illness when her mum Patricia died from breast cancer three years ago, aged 59.
Michael, of Longton, said: "Her weight was so low, the doctors said they were surprised she didn't have a heart attack because she was only four stone and her BMI was so low. But Joanne desperately wanted to get better.
"When her mum passed away, Joanne became ill again. People used to tell me she wasn't well but I felt like I couldn't do anything to help her. At meal times, I would see Joanne messing with her food and pushing it around her plate. I didn't really understand why she wasn't eating.
"She was very close to her mum and I never knew the full extent of her illness because they both kept a lot from me. I think it's because her mum didn't want me to worry. Joanne was very secretive about her illness and she never talked about it."
And Michael soon had health concerns of his own after suffering a heart attack last April.
He said: "I was really shocked. The doctors told me they think it's down to stress of worrying about Joanne because I have no history of it in my family.
"I don't feel like I've been able to live my life for these past two years. I don't like leaving Joanne because I never know if she would eat or not. It's been a struggle for the whole family." However, things soon improved when Joanne was admitted to St George's hospital in Stafford in September.
She was put on an intensive programme that focused on weight and eating, but also acknowledges the need to understand the disorder's psychological aspects.
Michael said: "Joanne made a lot of progress and you could see the difference in her since she was admitted. However, we all became really worried when we were told she wouldn't be able to attend there as an outpatient once she was discharged because we don't live in the area. Joanne was terrified.
"She needs specialist help and it baffled me why they couldn't get funding to treat her in there as an outpatient. I don't want her recovery to relapse for the sake of funding. It's crazy because there must be more people like Joanne with eating disorders who live in the city."
Michael was relieved when the family managed to secure another 12 months of specialist treatment for Joanne after writing to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service, and local MPs.
Michael said: "She's never looked as well as she does now. She's like a completely different girl. She is now eating double the amount she used to eat. Joanne told me she's determined to beat her eating disorder this time. She said she wants to live a normal life."