Anorexic, 26, battles back from the brink of death to gain masters degree

July 17, 2013 | by | 0 Comments
Rowena Henderson in her graduation gown after battling back from anorexia

Rowena Henderson in her graduation gown after battling back from anorexia

An anorexic who was so close to death her mum visited FUNERAL HOMES to pick out a coffin for her has battled back to gain a masters degree from university.

Rowena Buxton-Henderson, 26, spent her teenage years surviving on one apple and a cup of coffee a day – just 95 calories.

Between the ages of 13 and 20, she was in and out of hospital and even had to be resuscitated after she stopped breathing.

At her most frail, 6ft tall Rowena weighed just five-and-a-half stone and was so ill her mother, Carolann Henderson, visited funeral homes to prepare for her death.

She was even fed by a tube in a specialist eating disorder unit in Northampton for seven months when she was aged 16 but kept pulling the tube out because she did not want to put weight on.

Now Rowena, from Nottingham, has spoken out about the killer eating disorder after winning her battle and graduating from Manchester University with a 2:1 masters degree in Medicinal Chemistry.

Rowena, who now weighs a healthy nine-and-a-half stone, said: “I lost my most precious years with my family and friends – a time I should have been enjoying.

“The doctors resuscitated me once. The nurse said I had to get some sugar in me and gave me some Lucozade.

“My first response was ‘how many calories is in that?’ I was in complete denial.

“I was tube-fed for seven months when I was 16 and weighed just seven stone but I kept pulling the tube out, I was awful.

“I weighed the lowest when I was about 18 or 19-years-old, that’s when I got down to below six stone and knew I had to start eating.

“You need to want to change. I had seven years in and out of hospital. I received help several times but I only really got better when I wanted to.

“Before then, I would put on weight so I could get out of hospital and lose it again.

“I regret the time I’ve lost but I wouldn’t be the person I am if I had not been through what I have.”

Rowena at the time when she was very ill with the condition

Rowena at the time when she was very ill with the condition

Rowena lost a further stone in weight after this picture was taken

Rowena lost a further stone in weight after this picture was taken


Rowena first started losing weight when she was aged 13 after a school nurse told her she was morbidly obese after she tipped the scales at 16-and-a-half stone.

She stopped eating and her obsession with dieting continued until she was first hospitalised when she was 15 after collapsing at home.

Mum Carolann, 57, a retired police officer, said: “I visited a couple of funeral homes because I thought she was dying when she was 16-17 and was at her worst.

“Her BMI was just 11 and we had a couple of calls from the hospital say she wasn’t going to make it through the night.

“I wanted her at home if she died so wanted to make sure they could collect her from hospital and bring her straight here.

“I didn’t want her to go to a mortuary and I wanted to make sure that she went from her hospital bed to home where she could be surrounded by loved ones.

“It was a horrendous thing to go through.

“I never thought we would be here with Rowena having a masters degree.

“She’s incredibly intelligent, brave and determined and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Rowena received treatment at Nottinghamshire
Healthcare’s child and adolescent psychiatric unit before being admitted to a specialist eating disorder unit in Northampton.

After seeing her health improve, Rowena started studying at the University of Manchester five years ago.

She needed to do a foundation year before starting her degree, as she had missed two years of school after being hospitalised by her illness.

Rowena added: “I’ve got the most ridiculously lovely family and friends.

“For anybody out there who is suffering, it’s incredibly difficult if you don’t have support.

“It’s a long process. You go forward and do take steps backwards.

“Everyone has their ups and downs. I think it’s never going to completely leave me but there are different ways of managing it so I can have a life.

“I’m hoping to go into forensics or drug design. As long as I can help people in some way, that would be nice.”

She was cheered on at her graduation by members of her family, mum Carolann, twin sister Kirsty, and younger sister Poppy, 20.

Kirsty, 26, said: “The reality was I was going to lose my twin.

“We had been together for every waking moment of our lives.

“To see her walking across that stage was so emotional for all the right reasons.”

Category: Life

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