A BRAVE teenager who was just two weeks from death during a devastating battle with an eating disorder has spoken the first time of his long struggle back to health.
Kyle Carter, now 17, hopes that by telling his story he will help raise the profile of anorexia among boys – as the condition is almost exclusively associated with teenage girls.
During his four-year ordeal he spent more than 12 months at a specialist hospital in Scotland, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and force-fed.
At his worst point, in the middle of 2010, Kyle weighed little more than 5st – and medical staff warned his parents he was close to death.
Kyle’s sense of body image was so distorted he admits to being “10 per cent me and 90 per cent the eating disorder”.
His nightmare began at the tender age of 11, when playground taunts at school began to affect his confidence.
He said: “A big turning point came when I was scared to put on my school uniform because I was afraid it would be too tight.
“The more weight I lost, the more overweight I felt I was – that’s the way it works.
“Looking in the mirror became a big problem because my body image was horrific. It spiralled out of control after that.”
His weight began to plummet by 3lbs a week as he virtually stopped eating.
He was diagnosed with anorexia in early 2010, and spells in South Tyneside District Hospital and the Fleming Nuffield psychiatric unit in Jesmond, Newcastle, followed.
But worse was to follow a short time later, when he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
He recalled: “I was overrun by the eating disorder. I was 90 per cent eating disorder, 10 per cent me. I was not Kyle any more, and my mum and dad were told I was just two weeks from death.”
The youngster was transferred to the Huntercombe Hospital in Edinburgh, for people with eating disorders – where he would spend the next year and three weeks until mid-2011, when he was 14.
Kyle added: “They brought in the tube feeding in Edinburgh. Six or seven people would have to hold me down. That was the eating disorder saying ‘you can’t have nutrition and calories going into your body’.
“Looking back now I realise it had to happen – I wasn’t going to eat. I was two weeks from death. I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t done that.”
After six months of tube feeding, Kyle decided “I can’t go through this torment any more”.
He said: “I was gradually weaned off the tube feed, and they introduced snacks slowly. It was hard. I was crying when I had my first meal, but things gradually got easier.”
Eventually he was well enough to return to his home in Bluebell Way, South Shields, to continue his recovery.
Now he visits Monkwearmouth Hospital in Sunderland every six to eight weeks for check-ups – and his medication has been vastly reduced.
His condition proved a terrible strain on his parents, Andrea Welsh and David Carter, and his little sister Kara, now seven.
His mum said: “He was under 6st at one point, which for a boy is really low.
“It stunted his growth. His hair fell out, his skin would flake off, and he didn’t want to get showered. It was incredibly stressful.”
Kyle, who is now taking a health and social care diploma at South Tyneside College, is using his experience to help others suffering with eating disorders, and regularly posts Facebook updates about his struggles.
Now weighing in at a healthy 9st 12lbs, he said: “Now I have recovered I need to share my story, because I can turn my struggles into a positive.
“Today I can look in the mirror and love what I see.”