SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. — Rachael Farrokh, 37, weighs roughly 40 pounds after suffering from a severe form of anorexia for more than 10 years.
After making a desperate plea for survival in a video posted to YouTube, Farrokh told CNN on Friday that she has raised enough money for her to start treatment for her eating disorder. Farrokh and her husband, Rod Edmondson, created a GoFundMe page that’s exceeded $120,000 in donations to cover her medical costs.
Farrokh took to social media for help after she said she had exhausted all other options.
“My name’s Rachael. I need your help,” she says, short of breath, in the YouTube video. “In order for us to get there — and I’m not one to ever ask for help — I need your help. We need your help. Otherwise, I don’t have a shot, and I’m ready to get better. So please, if there’s anything you can do to save my life, please click this link that you’ll see and do anything you can. Anything will help.”
Edmondson wrote on the GoFundMe page that hospitals have refused to treat his wife because she doesn’t meet minimum weight requirements. Over a 10-year period, Farrokh has had blood transfusions, blood clots, edema and has suffered heart, liver and kidney failure. “She is at a critical point. … Her days are limited if we don’t take action immediately,” he writes.
Initially, Farrokh, who lives in San Clemente, California, hoped to raise enough money for treatment at the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders at the Denver Health Medical Center.
“My doctor wants me to stay here (in California) and is bringing the hospital basically to my bedside,” Farrokh said Friday. “I’ll have a doctor, a registered nurse, therapist and other specialist treat me from home. My eating disorder doctor has set all of this up for me.
“She actually has provided even extra care because right now she doesn’t think it’s safe for me to make the travel across country to a treatment center. We are trying to build up to that point to travel to a specialized treatment center like Denver Health.”
Dr. Tim Walsh, an eating disorder specialist at New York State Psychiatric institute at Columbia University, said that generally refeeding is effective, but for someone so ill, it would need to be done at an experienced facility. Walsh, who has not treated Farrokh, said few medical facilities have the expertise to treat a case such as hers.
Medical treatment for starvation and psychological support are the two issues that need to be immediately addressed during treatment for severe anorexia nervosa, he said.
“In treatment, first the calorie intake must be increased. It must be done very gradually and carefully so a patient doesn’t experience the complications that can occur during refeeding. One of the main complications of refeeding is cardiac-related, including heart failure, which can be fatal,” Walsh said.
Farrokh said she will slowly increase her calorie intake — as small as 25 calories per day.
“What people don’t understand is I can’t just eat a cheeseburger because it could kill me,” she said. “We have already started. It’s going OK. I have good days and bad days just like anyone. What kept me really up and fired right now is the love and support and motivation from everyone who has reached out to me — thousands of people. I had a bulimic girl tell me she pulled her head out of the toilet and (sought) treatment after seeing my story.”
Farrokh said she knows her time is limited and without the money and help she’s received, she will lose the battle.
But she isn’t done fighting and wants her experience to help others.
“I want to bring awareness to this disease because it’s going unnoticed and there’s a lot of shame around eating disorders right now,” Farrokh said. “It’s inspiring me to want to get better — I want my struggle to help other women know that they aren’t alone. This terrible disease should not be kept in the closet of shame.”