Ozarks Life: Kate Heard’s story of strength

Hollister teen overcomes and continues battling eating disorder
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 8:52 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Once a week, Kate Heard and her mother Kelly have a reunion with a woman who saved their family.

“When I first met Kate,” Stephanie Robbins with Burrell Behavioral Health said, “the light you’re going to see in her eyes today was not there.”

In 2018, at the age of 11, Kate didn’t like the person she saw in the mirror.

“There was a day,” Kate recalls, “I was wearing pair of shorts, they were kind of smaller. And I felt my stomach, and I thought, I needed to change that because it was not flat.”

“She came in to tell us good night,” Kate’s mother Kelly said, “and she put her arms around us and I realized, I could feel a lot of bone.”

“I remember feeling that I needed to be skinnier,” Kate responded.

“And I asked her if she weighed lately, and she knew to the pound what she weighed, and her eyes glassed over,” Kelly said.

Without her family knowing, Kate started eating less and less and eventually even stopped drinking water.

“I got really sick,” Kate said, “and I knew it, but I couldn’t control it.”

“So my husband I and were like, ‘okay, eat all your dinner,’ which in turn I think kind of accelerated things,” Kelly said.

Depression set in. Instead of a family trip to Florida cheering up their youngest daughter, it did the opposite. Kate laid on the beach crying the entire time.

“We look back at those pictures and think that’s somebody else,” Kelly said.

Eventually, the Heards got in contact with Robbins with Burrell’s RecoverED Eating Disorders Services.

“Your child saying they didn’t want to live anymore, you can’t get past that or even advise her,” Kelly said.

“At barely 12, I told them you need to drive to Tulsa and leave her there for a few months,” Robbins said.

“I felt relieved,” Kate said, “and I felt hope.”

Kate spent three months in Tulsa.

The American Psychological Association shows someone is more likely to complete treatment for an eating disorder if they have a dedicated, consistent team to help along the way.

It was just what Kate needed then with the staff in Tulsa and what she continues to have today. Support from her family, Stephanie, and her dog, comes every day.

“We taught her to sit by me when I eat,” Kate said about her dog. “She helps support me. That’s one of the hardest times, dinner time.”

Today, Kate is still fighting every day so she can live her life. That includes a spring break trip to the same beach she sat-on a few years ago as a different person.

“I never touched the ocean in 2018, I laid there crying,” Kate said. “I made sure to get in the ocean.”

She openly shares her story now - and in the future.

“I want to raise awareness,” Kate said. “I want a career like Stephanie. I want to be a therapist at the treatment center and watch those girls become themselves again.”

Traveling out of state like Kate did for treatment is now a thing of the past for many in our area. One year ago, Burrell opened it’s outpatient program, and this past January created the area’s only Intensive Outpatient Program for eating disorders.

Click here for more information on Burrell’s RecoverED Eating Disorders Program.

If you notice any changes in behavior, activities, or if eating habits become extreme for a loved one, you should reach out to a doctor.

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