'Anorexia almost killed me'

A teenage boy has spoken of his three-year battle with anorexia which almost cost him his life.

Joe Rogers, 16, weighed just six stone when the eating disorder was at its worst, almost causing his weakened heart to give in.

He chose to talk about his three-year battle with the disease, which is often wrongly perceived to only affect young women. In fact one in 10 sufferers are male.

"At the time I didn't notice how thin I was", Joe said.

"I look back now and think 'Oh God' and I am glad to be well and enjoying life now."

The teenager from Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, now weighs a healthy 10 stone and is continuing with therapy to help his recovery.

But he has been left with a weakened heart and the bone disease osteoporosis as a result of the eating disorder.

The anorexia began at 13 soon after starting at Monkseaton Community High School, closely followed by the death of his grandfather.

Joe thought he was overweight and began to keep fit obsessively. He decided to skip meals, a fact he hid from his mother Julie and step-father Paul.

As he became more lethargic, he ate less and slept more and by May 2003 he needed weeks of hospital treatment where he was fed through a tube.

'I was just so low'

"It was awful, I had no hopes for anything in the future. I was just so low," Joe said.

"I hope other people who see this get help now. If my story can help just one person, I will be pleased."

Despite the intense treatment, Joe did not believe he was truly ill and he was eventually sent for 11 months of specialist treatment to a unit 200 miles away in Stafford. He returned home in May 2004 but suffered a relapse which almost cost his life.

Medics in Newcastle diagnosed his heart had weakened so much he needed emergency treatment within 30 minutes to stabilise his condition.

Joe has been in recovery since then and can look to the future.

He now hopes to visit his father in Australia and plans to catch up his studies and take A Levels like other teenagers.

Joe's mother hoped his story would give help to other parents and spoke of her despair of ever getting her son back. "He withdrew from life in a very dark depression," she said.

"Joe refused water, not just food, and was in a vegetative state for a lot of the time. As his mum, I couldn't believe he would ever get through it. He has come a long way and he is doing fantastically well now."

She praised the NHS staff who helped her son but said the treatment of anorexia was under-resourced.

"Stafford is a long way from the North East and travelling down put a huge strain on our family," she said.

Steve Bloomfield, of the Eating Disorder Association, said one one in 10 people with eating disorders were male but the figure could be higher because young men hid what they did.

"Many of the issues are the same for men as for women. There are pressures at school or in the home, problems with relationships," he said.

"The triggering issues are being bullied or teased about your weight or shape."

For more information on eating disorders from the NHS click here.

For the Eating Disorder Association website click here.

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