When Melanie Brazier was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2007, she knew it was time to make a drastic lifestyle change.
As the New York Post reports, Brazier was in urgent need to to lose weight— she weighed in at an alarming 222 pounds at just 5 feet and 4 inches tall.
But it wasn’t a task she wanted to take on alone.
Brazier’s son, Stevie, was deemed “clinically obese” by doctors. The boy was just 14 years old and weighed 264 pounds — a weight he swelled to following having broken his leg in a motorcycle accident.
Brazier was elated when Stevie expressed interest in joining her on the journey. It would be a way for them to finally turn their lives, and health, completely around.
But Brazier certainly couldn’t have predicted such an outcome for Stevie. In fact, to this day, it is one she wishes could be undone.
In the beginning, all was well. Brazier told the Mirror that she and Stevie were seeing results:
“We enjoyed cooking chicken stir fries. Stevie was getting compliments and he was really pleased.”
But the steady rate of weight loss wasn’t enough for Stevie. Eventually, things cascaded out of control.
He became obsessed with binging, purging, and excessive exercise. He would sometimes force himself to vomit up to 25 times a day, and pedal away on his exercise bike late into the night.
Brazier recalled the changes in her son’s behavior towards food, including compulsively weighing himself and lying about eating:
“When he did sit down for a family meal he would disappear to the bathroom for up to an hour afterword.”
That’s when Brazier said she noticed the horrifying toll Stevie’s actions were taking on his body:
“One day he bent over and his t-shirt rode up,” she said. “I noticed a roll of skin hanging over his bottom and his spine jutting out. It was a shocking sight and I gasped. He’d been hiding in baggy sweaters, so I’d not noticed how much weight he’d lost.”
Brazier knew then it was time to intervene.
After seeing a psychiatrist, Stevie was diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia.
According to research on males and eating disorders, issues such as anorexia and bulimia have long been perceived as “women’s problems.”
However, in the U.S., approximately 10 million men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder in their lifetime, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
In Stevie’s case, not only were disrupted eating patterns a cause of suffering, but the psychiatrist shared with Brazier that her son was also plagued by suicidal thoughts:
“It was like being punched in the stomach, hearing that,” she said.
But when the psychiatrist suggested medical attention, Brazier and her family were faced with a difficult decision. At $1,100 a night, they knew they simply could not afford it.
They had no choice but to send Stevie to an eating disorder clinic as an outpatient.
But when there was no improvement, Stevie had to be admitted. However, before a pen could be put to the final paperwork, Stevie fled.
With the potassium in his blood at gravely low levels, there was a chance his heart could give out at any moment.
Once he returned home, his parents wasted no time carrying him away to treatment. At the hospital, Stevie was hooked up to an IV and secured so that he couldn’t escape.
He would resort to anything in order to get out. When he promised to start eating, the hospital decided to release him.
But just days later he was rushed back in. His pulse had become disturbingly faint.
Stevie was spiraling into cardiac arrest.
Fortunately, doctors were able to spare his life. They moved him to a high dependency unit, where he resided for a week.
Still, despite 24/7 attention and care, Stevie weaseled his way out again.
Brazier was worn out:
“I was at the end of my tether. He was binging up to 25 times a day. I caught him standing in front of the fridge gorging on raw, frozen chicken nuggets.”
It wasn’t until he was detained once again that Stevie began to make progress. Short-lived progress.
After so much turmoil, Stevie’s body began to turn on him. He was approaching kidney failure.
He spent two weeks in the hospital and was in consideration of being added to the transplant list before the Mirror reports he made an unexpected recovery.
But once Stevie was allotted time outside of the hospital, he slipped up once again, feeding on lattes packed with sweeteners until he was ill.
After so much trial and error, Brazier and her family were left with no option but to give Stevie the best care they could from home.
It was on a morning in February of 2014 that Brazier’s life would change forever.
After eating some toast, Stevie told his mom he wasn’t feeling well. She instructed him to rest and to call her if he needed her.
When the next morning arrived, Brazier noticed her son had not risen from bed at his usual time. She decided to go up to his bedroom and check on him.
What she saw was an image no mother should ever have to witness.
Stevie, only 21 years old, had died of cardiac arrest.
Brazier described coming to terms in that gut-wrenching moment:
“I knew he was dead as soon as I saw him. Heartbroken doesn’t describe how I felt.”
Now, the health agency that oversees the institutions where Stevie was hospitalized is admitting the faultiness of the treatment he received.
According to a statement from a spokeswoman, “communications between those services providing care for Mr. Brazier was not adequate,” and there have been measures put in place “to help improve communications channels.”
In the three years since the loss of Stevie, the family admits to still grappling with reality:
“From the day he was born, we did everything together,” Brazier said. “Living without him, knowing the pain he was in during what should have been his best years, it’s broken me.”
As horrific as the details are, Brazier hopes reliving it through telling it will ensure “no other mom should go through what I went through:”
“If, by sharing Stevie’s story, it helps one other mom spot signs earlier than I did, or makes them fight harder to get the care their child needs, then I know he didn’t die for nothing,” she said.