BY Harriet Whitehead
An anorexic survivor who nearly died after her weight plummeted to just four stone has revealed her amazing transformation.
Hannah Lucas developed the eating disorder when she was a teen and dropped from 13 and a half stone after surviving on a diet of apple slices and yoghurt.
The 23-year-old claims her skeletal appearance made her look 60 years old and she was so weak that she had to use a wheelchair and was unable to wash herself.
Now the aspiring teacher, who was hospitalised four times, is a healthy size 12 and looks like a completely different person as she marks a year since starting her recovery journey.
Hannah, from Wallasey, Merseyside, said: “It began when I was about 15 years old. I was quite a large kid and I got bullied about my weight.
“I was in a relationship for about six years and he made me feel low about myself.
“I wanted to teach bounce (dance fit) as well and my dance teacher said all dance teachers have got to be slim.
“I started going on a diet and it would be diet after diet and before I knew it I had an eating disorder.
“It was a gradual thing. I started to lose weight and people noticed and started complementing me and saying that I looked good.
“I weighed 13 and a half stone and at my lowest I got to four stone.
“The thoughts used to come into my head that I could not eat the things I used to eat. My calorie count went down from 1,500 to 200 and I could only eat certain things. If I ate something else I would have a break down.
“I used to eat the little bags of sliced apples and once my boyfriend bought me one with grapes in. I had a grape and starved myself the next day because I ate something I thought I was not allowed.
“The thoughts coming into my head were that I was greedy and fat. There was an overwhelming feeling of guilt and it was horrible – it was constantly on my mind.
“I would be doing dance and walking everywhere until I became too weak and had to give it up.
“When I was 18 my sister Kate took me to the doctors. I was about eight stone at the time and they sent me away and said there was nothing wrong with me. I lost another stone within three weeks and a different doctor started to take it seriously.
“I was going through a hard time. My mum was diagnosed with cancer and had to have her arm amputated and my sister was suffering with post-natal depression. I couldn’t handle it and my way of coping with it was to not eat.
“I was eating about 100 calories a day – usually just yoghurt.”
Hannah was referred to an eating disorder clinic after being told if she did not go in voluntarily she would be sectioned.
Hannah said: “It felt like being in prison and at first I did not feel like it was helping me. My first stay was seven months and my longest stay was 10 months.
“When I was first admitted I knew I had an issue but I was in denial. I knew it wasn’t normal but I did not know I had an eating disorder.”
Hannah was discharged after she started to put weight on but struggled with not having an eating routine and her weight dropped again.
She was eating around 200 calories a day but started to increase that too quickly and suffered from refeeding syndrome which can be fatal.
Hannah said: “My body just started to shut down. My face just sank in and I went yellow. My dad was asking ‘what’s happened to you?’ and I was pretending I was okay but I could not feel my heart rate.
“My pulse dropped to 34 beats per minute and I was taken to hospital and put on a heart monitor.
“I couldn’t bend down because I could not get back up again. I was not able to walk or lift my head off the pillow.
“They were feeding me through a tube but my body was not agreeing with it. I was just losing more weight.
“They had to section me as I told them I’m not eating anything. I didn’t eat for eight days.
“I went down to four stone. I was screaming ‘I want to die’. I thought I was going to die. I could not see the point in living anymore.”
Her condition continued to deteriorate while she was in hospital with doctors fearing she had sepsis.
She said: “I had to have a blood transfusion.
“The doctors actually phoned my mum a couple of days before Christmas and said ‘I don’t think she’s going to make it through the night’.”
Miraculously Hannah pulled through and spent the next five months being fed through a tube and using a wheelchair because she was unable to walk.
She said: “I could not wash myself or do anything. My mum had to lift me up and carry me to the shower. It was horrible.
“I did not realise how bad I looked. My mum had bought me a Christmas present of a make-up set with a mirror. Looking in the mirror I was like ‘that person is not me’. I was properly shocked by it.
“I had to learn to walk again. I was using a zimmer frame. I was too weak to walk on my own and was like that for a good few months. The physio said it would take a long time for me to learn to walk again but I was very determined.”
Hannah was admitted to an eating disorder clinic two more times after she hit rock bottom with her clinician eventually discharging her so she could continue her recovery in the community.
Hannah said: “It had wrecked my friendships and relationships. I thought ‘I can’t do it anymore’.
“Gradually I started eating again. I struggled but it was better than the thought of going back into hospital.
“I had seen people in the clinic who were 50 years old and I was determined not to be that person.”
A consequence of her illness is that Hannah now suffers osteoporosis and has had two falls resulting in a broken coccyx and shoulder.
She said: “My recovery has been gradual and it’s been really tough. It’s mentally draining.
“There are so many times when I think I want to relapse but I can’t.
“I lost who I was when I was ill. There was nothing there. Someone could have given me the world and I would not have been bothered.
“I did not think I would get my personality back but I feel like I have now.
“There are good days and bad days. I’m still not happy with how I look but I suppose everyone is always unhappy about something. I think I will always find a fault.
“My family is helping me get through it. They are so proud. They did not think I would get to this point.”
One thing that has made a huge difference to Hannah’s life is her beloved Bichon Frise Ted.
Hannah said: “I think he is the one who has really helped me. I was still in hospital when my sister picked him up at eight week’s old.
“I fell in love with him instantly. He’s so cute. I know it sounds mad but I think that’s what made me recover. He makes me feel happy when I’m sad. When I’m down he will cuddle me. He’s helped me a lot.
“I am hopeful about the future now and I want to raise awareness about the condition. I do not think people realise how serious it can be. My doctor told me he thought I was the worst case he had come across.
“I think it was a way of dealing with other things going on in my life. Now when I have a bad day I know I still have to eat. I’m eating three healthy meals a day and I’m looking forward to going back to the gym.
“I don’t know how much I weigh but I’m now a healthy size 12 to 14. I don’t weigh myself as I know if I did I would go backwards. I’ve made an agreement not to do it.
“People say I look like a different person. I looked like an old woman. I would say I looked at least 60 years old. I find it hard to look at pictures of myself because I know it looks like a completely different person but I also feel like a different person now.”
Hannah is hoping to go into schools to talk to teens about anorexia and has ambitions of becoming a teacher or working in mental health.
She said: “I had a nurse who did not understand the condition and would say things like ‘there are people starving in Africa’. Having been through it I think I could help because I have an understanding.
“It is a mental illness. People think you lose weight to be skinny but it’s not about that. It gets in your head.
“In hospital you feel like you have to have your meals at certain times and I would panic if I didn’t. Now I eat when I want to eat and I am able to go out for meals. This time last year I would not have done that because I would be worried people would think I was greedy. Now it doesn’t bother me which is really good.”
“I would say to other people going through it not to be ashamed. It’s when you open up about it that you start to get better.”