Overcoming an eating disorder can be costly, and the Paducah councils of the Knights of Columbus are hosting a joint fish fry Friday to help a local family cover treatment costs for their teenage daughter and raise awareness of eating disorders.
The fish fry, at the St. John's Knights of Columbus Hall on U.S. 45 south of Lone Oak, will raise funds for Paducah residents Michael and Laura Beth Eck for the treatment and care of their 17-year-old daughter, Haley.
The Eck family are parishioners at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Paducah, and Bob Whitlock, grand knight at the Jefferson Street Knights of Columbus, said Rev. Brian Roby asked the Knights to conduct the fundraiser.
Laura Beth Eck said Roby had approached her and her husband multiple times about helping with their medical expenses, and they had politely declined. But about a year into their daughter's illness, Roby approached the parents again.
"And we just finally said, 'You know, it's time,' because ... the expenses have just been astronomical," Laura Beth Eck explained.
Her daughter has been diagnosed with anorexia and orthorexia. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss, but orthorexia begins with a fixation on eating healthfully that leads sufferers to restrict their diets - limiting both how much they eat and the variety of foods they will eat - to an extent that hurts their health.
The parents said Haley has been dealing with the illness since about March of last year. Michael Eck said the eating disorders progressed quickly, and Haley's treatment has included stays in two treatment facilities: first in Phoenix and then in St. Louis. In between those stays, her gallbladder had to be removed as a result of malnutrition and she has undergone numerous tests, including a liver biopsy.
Michael and Laura Beth Eck said they would like to raise awareness about eating disorders, because they know several adults dealing with eating disorders, as well as their daughter.
"It's amazing, through this, how many people have approached us and said, 'You know, I still struggle with this. I went through this,' and you would never know (otherwise)," Michael Eck said.
As part of the effort to raise awareness, literature from the NEDA about eating disorders and how to help those suffering with them will be available at the fish fry.
The event, at 6725 U.S. 45 South, will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. According to Whitlock, fried fish, chicken, side dishes and desserts will be served at the public event. Credit cards are accepted, and carryout is available. Whitlock said the cost of the dinner is $11, and that additional donations will be accepted.
Whitlock said the disorders are more prevalent than people may think.
"It can happen in any family. I think maybe the popular conception of anorexia is it only happens to like super models and narcissistic celebrities, and that's not true. It can happen to anyone ... it has no respect for gender or race," Whitlock said.
Laura Beth Eck said if people suspect a friend or loved one has an eating disorder, they should talk to them and seek professional help immediately. She said finding a therapist and a dietitian are two key elements of dealing with eating disorders.
"I mean, we caught it pretty early. Within two months we noticed, and we had (Haley) up at the pediatric group to see her pediatrician and he lined her up with (a specialist in St. Louis) and we got her therapy, and it still was not soon enough," Laura Beth Eck said.
Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.