Nikki Grahame: Scots anorexia patient tells of her 20-year friendship with the Big Brother star
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The death of the 38-year-old reality television personality on Friday, April 6, shocked the country and left Nikki’s family, friends and fans devastated.
Life long friend of the television star Ellen Maloney, who first met Nikki when both women were teenaged inpatients at a London eating disorder clinic, said she has been left “absolutely heartbroken” by her passing.
Ellen, now 38 and living in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, remembers how the confident and colourful 15-year-old Nikki would make young people staying in the clinic laugh with her impressions of the staff.
“She was every bit as bubbly as she came across on TV,” said Ellen. “And she had the most infectious laugh.
“She had all of the patients and staff in stitches with her amazing impressions, particularly of the staff.
“She was incredibly fun to be around, despite the fact that everyone in the unit, Nikki included, were going through some really dark times.”
The T.V personality used her 30 years long battle with anorexia nervosa to raise awareness of the condition, writing two autobiographies about her experiences.
Her death has raised fresh questions about the care people suffering from eating disorders receive.
In an interview with ITV, months before her daughter’s death Sue Grahame, 66, said that Nikki had been failed by the health services multiple times.
She said: “We have not had much luck with the NHS, there was only one centre open to her and they have failed her there five or six times.”
In March, Nikki was able to enter a private clinic after the public helped raise £65,000 for treatment. But less than 24 hours after leaving the clinic in April Nikki passed away.
Trying to adjust to the idea of life without Nikki, Ellen, who still struggles to control her own eating disorder, said her friend “deserved better”.
“Nobody should be dying of an eating disorder in 2021,” she said: “Nikki and her family deserved better than this.
“Eating disorder services are not equipped to help people who have been struggling with their illness for a long time.
“When you have been unwell for many years and in and out of hospital, treatment professionals too often blame patients for not getting better instead of reflecting on the fact that the treatment is not effective.”
Before the pandemic, Nikki had been focusing on self-improvement and had just completed a course on caring for children with special needs.
But after what her close friends and family have described as a “hellish lockdown” she began struggling again.
Scotland’s leading eating disorder charity BEAT, who have experienced a 302 per cent increase in referrals to their services since lockdown began, has warned of the serious ramifications the pandemic will have.
BEAT’s director of external affairs Tom Quinn said: “We know the pandemic has been particularly difficult for people affected by eating disorders. It is not surprising, as those affected and their families have had to cope with extreme changes to their daily routines, support networks and care plans, all while also dealing with the additional stress the pandemic has brought. It is now more essential than ever that anyone struggling gets the help they need without delay.”
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