A Father's Fight: The Case for Change
Our founder, Debbie, recently had the opportunity to chat with a parent who knows all about the heartache and despair that eating disorders can bring. Here, she offers an insight into a determined campaign, being led by a devastated family.
Nothing quite brings home the devastating effect that an eating disorder can have, like sitting down with a grieving father.
Nic Hart is a man who never for one moment believed that his life’s work would turn into a campaign about healthcare provision (or lack thereof), and he certainly never thought he would lose his daughter at such a tender age.
Averil died in December 2012, aged just 19.
She had succumbed to an eating disorder – anorexia – during her A Levels, and received hospital treatment in Cambridge, before then securing a place at university, and being assigned primary and secondary care provision to enable to complete her studies at the University of East Anglia.
With great honesty, and evident devotion to his daughter’s memory, Nic explains in detail how Averil’s health began to decline and that despite all the structures and protocols which should have kicked in around her care, she deteriorated at a rapid rate and was eventually found unconscious in her student flat.
Averil, a fun-loving, intelligent and articulate daughter and sibling, would lose her life to the disease she had tried so hard to fight.
Today, Nic’s ongoing campaign is to see it officially recognised that such were the missed opportunities, the delays, and the lack of specific knowledge around Averil as an anorexic patient in desperate need, that she was failed by the health services who were there to help her.
There are several aspects to this father’s fight.
Yes, he wants a sincere and heartfelt apology, and for the truth to ‘out’ at last.
But beyond this, Nic also wants to protect other patients and their families from suffering in a similar way, and to ensure that lessons are learned around the very specific care needs of those suffering from eating disorders.
Nic talks at length with me about the woeful lack of education that GPs or A&E staff receive in their medical practice studies around eating disorders; about the poor understanding of a person’s brain dialogue while in the midst of something like anorexia, and about the need for so many more people to discuss this disorder, understand it, and banish any kind of stigma or false perception.
This week, Nic will meet with Amanda Campbell, CEO of the Parliamentary Health and Service Ombudsman.
His aim at this particular opportunity, is to talk about how the PHSO’s investigation into his daughter’s death was carried out, and to make it abundantly clear just how stressful the complaints procedure was on all the family.
It is one of many meetings, inquests, discussions, and formal reporting arenas which now fill the diary of a man still grieving for his beloved daughter.
At Wednesday’s Child, we take a close interest in the campaign and its progression, not least, because we understand the pain of the Hart family, the vile nature of this disease, and the appalling impact it has on so many.
So too, do we recognise the lost opportunities and timely actions that so often take place in respect of care, be that in medical professionals being under educated in this illness, or in a failure to see someone as ‘poorly enough’, ‘swiftly enough’.
As someone who battled anorexia for two whole decades, so much of what Nic and I discussed was heartbreaking, relatable and motivational in equal measure.
I will be doing all I can to support Nic’s desires to see progressive changes in the handling of eating disorder care, and to ensure the story of Averil is used appropriately in whatever arena possible.
There is much still to unravel in the Hart family’s quest for justice, so please do check in with us to find out more in the coming weeks and months.
In the meantime, don’t forget you can always get in touch with us to share your story or to offer your support through us, for Nic and his family.
For Averil, and for all those who’ve battled all continue to, this determined fight goes on.
- Aug 2019