Meet Ashley Hall. She lives in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas. She just graduated sixth grade. And she weighs 39 pounds.
Sadly, that’s not a typo.
Eleven-year-old Ashley — the daughter of my childhood friend Nancy (Blair) Hall and her husband, Philip — has suffered from a severe eating disorder for eight years.
In 2006, Nancy lost her mother, and later in the year, her father. Both had been ill, and Nancy spent months shuttling between Marsh Harbour and Nassau to care for them.
Understandably, it was a time of upset and upheaval for her family, and Ashley, always a sensitive and perceptive child, began refusing to eat.
Nancy and Philip took Ashley to Florida, where she underwent extensive neurological testing and more than 20 medical tests. When no physical explanation could be found for her failure to thrive, doctors diagnosed Ashley with anorexia nervosa – the youngest case they’d ever seen.
At three years old, they explained, Ashley’s refusal to eat had nothing to do with body image. It wasn’t about a dress size or a number on a scale. Rather, it was an attempt to gain control when she felt like so much of her life was beyond her control.
With medical care, Ashley improved. But two years later, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, her world once again spun out of control.
Nancy had to leave Ashley behind to travel to Nassau for treatments, surgery and chemotherapy. “As rough as it was on me,” Nancy says, “I can’t imagine how scary it was for her. When I lost my hair, she took it so hard. I remember her in the back yard, sobbing her eyes out.”
Nancy and Philip sought help locally, but few Bahamian doctors or therapists – and none on Abaco — specialize in eating disorders. They did find limited success working with a series of local counselors and over time, as Nancy’s health improved, so did Ashley’s.
For the next several years, Ashley’s eating disorder seemed to recede into the past. Though she’s never been a big eater, Nancy says, she was thriving.
Earlier this year, however, as Ashley neared the end of sixth grade – and the transition from primary to high school — she grew increasingly distressed.
“She doesn’t do well with change,” Nancy says. “She had to say goodbye to a couple of close friends, and we could tell she just wasn’t emotionally ready for high school.”
Her parents assured Ashley they’d homeschool her until she felt ready to rejoin her class. As a reward and a distraction, they booked a sixth-grade-graduation trip to Disneyworld and Epcot Center for July.
But as June neared, Ashley grew increasingly withdrawn, depressed and obsessed with her weight. “Now that she’s older,” Nancy says, “we see the full-blown effects of the anorexia. Counting calories, limiting her food intake to nearly nothing. She won’t even drink water.”
“I went through cancer twice, and that was difficult,” says Nancy. “But it’s so much harder to watch my child go through this. She doesn’t see what it’s doing, what it’s done to her body. I don’t think she can grasp yet just how serious this is.”
After graduation, instead of Disneyworld, Nancy and Philip rushed Ashley – by then, a dangerously thin 39 pounds — to Miami. There, for nearly a month, she was passed from hospital to hospital.
“Some facilities can give her medical care, but not the psychological counseling she needs,” Nancy says. “Some offer only outpatient programs, but Ashley needs something more intensive.” And most eating disorder programs don’t accept children under 13.
Just when it seemed the Halls had run out of options, they received some encouraging news. An eating disorder clinic near Tallahassee, which offers the full spectrum of medical, nutritional and psychological services Ashley needs, agreed to accept her.
The bad news? The facility costs more than $1,000 per day. And Ashley needs – at a minimum – 30 days of treatment, payable before they’d even admit her!
Like many Bahamian families, the Halls don’t have medical insurance. And though their family, friends and church community have helped with fundraising, Ashley’s medical expenses far exceed the money raised.
Earlier this week, an anonymous source offered Philip and Nancy a $30,000 interest free loan – enough to get Ashley admitted and begin treatment, which she did this past Thursday.
Financially, though, it’s just a temporary reprieve. In addition to repaying the loan, the Halls face significant bills from the other hospitals that have seen and treated Ashley in recent weeks. And, given the severity of her disorder, Ashley will likely need to spend more than 30 days at the current facility.
With proper, specialized medical and psychological help, Ashley has an excellent chance of overcoming this disorder and living a long and healthy life.
But like most families, the Halls simply don’t have the thousands – and potentially hundreds of thousands – of dollars that her treatment will require.
Every day we encounter situations we’d like to change but are powerless to do so. Here, however, is something we can do, something that will make a tangible difference in the life of an 11-year-old child.
I’ve made a contribution to Ashley’s medical fund and whether or not you know Ashley and her family, I hope you’ll consider doing the same.
Here’s how you can help:
- In the Bahamas, donations can be made at any RBC branch to the Marsh Harbour account of “Philip and Diana Hall” (Diana is Nancy’s real name). That should be enough information, but if you need the account number, email me. Contributions can also be sent to Philip and Nancy via P.O. Box AB-20091, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas.
- If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, send contributions (payable to “Philip and Diana Hall”) to 956 S. Orange Grove Blvd, Unit B, Pasadena, CA 91105.
- If you’ve got a PayPal account, donations can also be made that way. Get in touch and I’ll give you the details.
And please, please forward this story to anyone (or any organization) you think might be able to help the Hall family.
Related: An Update on Ashley Hall
15 thoughts on “Abaco’s Ashley Hall Faces Critical Medical Challenge”
Just posted to Linked In….my donation is on its way….Prayers coming Ashley’s way!!!!!!!
Thank you, Lou! I know Nancy and Philip appreciate every bit of help.
Thank you for sharing this. Praying for Ashley, Nancy and Philip. My donation is on it’s way.
Thanks, Audra! I know Nancy and Phil will receive it with gratitude and love.
Where is Ashley now?
She’s in Florida, at the treatment center, which is near Tallahassee.
I would love to make a donation. Please let me know how. God bless!
Hi, Meg. I know Asley’s family would appreciated. Here’s how you can make a contribution…
Here’s how you can help:
In the Bahamas, donations can be made at any RBC branch to the Marsh Harbour account of “Philip and Diana Hall” (Diana is Nancy’s real name). That should be enough information, but if you need the account number, email me. Contributions can also be sent to Philip and Nancy via P.O. Box AB-20091, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas.
If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, send contributions (payable to “Philip and Diana Hall”) to 956 S. Orange Grove Blvd, Unit B, Pasadena, CA 91105.
If you’ve got a PayPal account, donations can also be made that way. Get in touch and I’ll give you the details.
It’s times like this when I realise how lucky we are in the UK to have the NHS. If you need treatment, you get it, regardless of cost. I find it very difficult to comprehend having to pay for medical treatment as what happens if/when you can’t afford it like this? Do the doctors just expect her to stay at home and die if you can’t pay?? Makes me really angry. I don’t know if it’s available in the Bahamas but over here we can set up an Internet page called Just Giving. People use them for all sorts of things from fundraising for charity events and sponsorship to saving up for Christmas presents where the whole family can donate. It just means that you can put it on the Internet, people can donate by credit or debit card and the money goes straight to you. Charity pages don’t pay charges I don’t think, and you may be able to class this as a charity cause. Also that way people in different countries can also help. I think you’d get a lot of support this way as people can also donate anonymously if they want. It was on the news a few months ago after an old man was attacked and robbed in his own house and someone set up a page to try to help him move to a different house as he was too scared to go back and he ended up with over £500,000 raised to help him! Prayers and thoughts are with Ashley and her family, I know what a debilitating and misunderstood illness Anorexia can be xx
My name is Raquel Armbrister and I work for the Bahamas Christian Network. I’m wondering if it would be okay to do a news story on little Ashley to promote the medical fund and support for her? We would like to do it on tomorrow’s news segment. Let me know if it’s okay.
Hi, Raquel. Thanks for your note. Yes, I think it would be okay if you do a story on Ashley to promote her medical fund and encourage support. I’m sure her family would appreciate it! I’ll send you an email with more info.
To the family… Take heart in knowing that this is a treatable illness. My little brother suffered from this (not sure it was actually diagnosed at the time, 20 years ago). Today he is a healthy 6″6′ 200lb 28 year old. The major turn around came when he was in the 9th grade I believe, after a lot of doctors and finally anti anxiety medication that really turned him around. He still had bouts of it through college, and even nowadays, but nothing as bad as in his adolescence and teens.
Prayers for your sweet girl.
Can you please send me the account information want to make a contribution I a greatly saddened by Ashley position . Send me the account number please and which bank, thanks.
Hi, Raif. Thank you for your note. I have emailed the relevant information to you. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your generosity.