Skip to main content

Patient pens emotional letter of thanks


A member of Swansea Bay’s eating disorder team has shared a heartfelt letter from a patient thanking her for, ultimately, saving her life.

As a specialist occupational therapist, Chris May (pictured) often works with people who are so severely unwell, that death is a real possibility.

However the work that Chris - and her dedicated colleagues - carry out is making a real difference, and was highlighted in the last Swansea Bay UHB Living Our Values (LOV) Awards.

Chris, who is based in Ty Einon Mental Health Resource Centre, in Gorseinon, had been in the running for the Essential People category of the health board wide awards.

Chris has shared the letter, which led to her being nominated, in order to shine a light on an often misunderstood illness.

She said: “An eating disorder is where somebody has a totally distorted view on their shape or their weight. It can kill you. Quite often people who come to the service don’t have a lower weight target, so whatever they are aiming for is never enough.

“That can mean you end up so severely unwell you can’t think, you can’t function - you may push yourself to run five miles on 300 calories.

“I tend to work with those who are really most unwell. They can’t really engage in talking therapies because their weight is really low – one of my patient’s BMI is about 11.8, which is lighter than my dog.”

Such disorders often alienates the patient’s family and friends.

Chris said: “An eating disorder affects every single part of a person’s functions.

“They may not be able to work, they may be isolated because an eating disorder separates them from their family and their friends, who, in turn, are really frustrated because they can’t help.”

There is no easy answer when it comes to helping such patients.

Chris said: “It’s quite difficult to cure as it’s about working with that person to try and get their motivation going – in their head, they are fat. It doesn’t matter if they look like skin and bone. 

“My job is to work with the family to enable them to understand more about the eating disorder. But also to work with the patient to encourage them to structure their eating and start to not be quite so scared of something that to everybody else is just normal but to them is their worst fear.

“A lot of it is made worse by social media. Everything you hear is about how you look, calories, losing weight, not being good enough.”

Despite such a difficult job, when patients recover, it affords tremendous job satisfaction.

Chris said: “I discharged a patient and they wrote a lovely letter about how I had worked with not just her but her family as well. 

“They were quite desperate when they got here.

“She was living at home having come home from university because her weight was so low, she couldn’t do her exams. 

“She had been to numerous GPs but they all said, ‘you just need to eat.’ 

“If you just needed to eat there would be no need for a service like ours.”

Chris set about working with the whole family.

She said: “I was seeing her twice a week initially, which is quite intensive, to support her. Her family were brought in as well and we talk about the things they were struggling with.

“I’d got them to understand that she wasn’t being this really awful person. That’s the other thing about an eating disorder, it makes a person, who may be the nicest person in the world, lie and be deceitful.

“The whole family structure was destroyed. Their dad couldn’t even look at her. He couldn’t give her eye contact because he could see this person in front of him, who he absolutely loved, and he couldn’t help her get better.

“What I did was find him a role. His role was making sure that at 10am she would have her milky drink. He would help her make it, and if she couldn’t make it herself he would do it for her. He became really persistent with this so she never missed a milky drink at 10 o’clock.

“They gradually built on that – he then started helping her with her lunch.

“He had a role to play. Mum’s role was trying very much to keep the family together – he’d lost his daughter. Her sisters found it really difficult to come into the family environment because everything you do as a family is usually around food.

“We managed to unpick it all.”

Fortunately, there was a happy ending.

Chris said: “She gradually got better. She managed to get a job but the reason she could function in a job was because of Covid. She didn’t ever have to go into work. Nobody could see what she looked like. 

“She worked all the way through but was in a job that she didn’t really like. 
As she got better her confidence grew.

“She eventually started to get well and had the confidence to get herself a better job. She also moved out of her parent’s house and got her own flat.

“She’s doing really, really well.”

Parts of the letter to Chris from the patient explained the difference her support had made. It read:

“Thanks to you, I’m planning a future I didn’t believe I had one before I met you…..I can finally walk out of the house and no longer feel like the walls are closing in on me and the whole wide world is staring.. I never thought I would be able to go into a restaurant without at least a week’s notice and a through scan of the menu. Now this is slowly becoming normal.

“I never in a million years thought I would be moving into an apartment on my own, these are things I now take for granted. 

“Instead of being terrified of a future, I am finally excited. Not only do I want to thank you for changing my life but thank you for being such an incredible human.”

Chris was nominated by her manager, Kristel Davies, who said: “The touching letter demonstrates the huge impact Christine had on the individual, and also her family.

“It offers a number of detailed thank yous, with the most powerful being about how Christine ultimately saved her life.”

Despite the letter, and shortlisting, Chris is keen to praise her colleagues.

She said: “That’s what my job is, but it’s really nice to know that somebody appreciates it.

“I’m part of a really good team. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to do the job that I do.”

Rydym yn croesawu gohebiaeth a galwadau ffôn yn y Gymraeg neu'r Saesneg. Atebir gohebiaeth Gymraeg yn y Gymraeg, ac ni fydd hyn yn arwain at oedi. Mae’r dudalen hon ar gael yn Gymraeg drwy bwyso’r botwm ar y dde ar frig y dudalen.

We welcome correspondence and telephone calls in Welsh or English. Welsh language correspondence will be replied to in Welsh, and this will not lead to a delay. This page is available in Welsh by clicking ‘Cymraeg’ at the top right of this page.