A Texas teen died just a day before her 15th birthday after suffering a heart attack brought on by an eating disorder that resulted from her being bullied for her weight.
Lacey Smarr died on Feb. 2 after suffering for months with an eating disorder that caused her to starve herself of the nutrients needed for her heart to function. Her stepfather found her unresponsive in their home after she came home early from school not feeling well.
“She had come home from school that day because she wasn’t feeling well,” James Miller said. “I tried CPR, and the ambulance took her to the hospital and tried for a while, but she was gone.”
Smarr’s mother, Candy Miller, said that her daughter had eaten several large meals the day before her death, but now suspects that she had thrown the food up afterwards. “She’s a very smart girl,” Miller said. “She knew how to hide it.”
Miller said that the teasing, which she insists was lighthearted and not meant maliciously, began at the end of her daughter’s eighth grade year.
“They would tease, not meaning any harm — those girls loved Lacey,” Miller said. “They would just tease like some friends do. They would tell her that her butt looked big in the volleyball shorts. That’s all it took for Lacey. She’s just that kind of person that takes it seriously.”
After the teasing began to have an effect on the young teen, Miller said the entire family made it their mission to start eating right and exercising. Smarr’s stepfather even became her workout buddy.
“We started eating really healthy foods and running two miles every morning, and she was losing weight but still eating,” James said. The exercising eventually stopped, but Smarr continued to lose weight. Miller became concerned, and took her daughter to the hospital after she fainted and hit her head. Nurses observed her eat and then throw the food up unprovoked, but they simply diagnosed her with an ulcer and prescribed an antacid. Miller said she asked doctors if they thought her daughter had an eating disorder but her concerns were always dismissed.
At the time of her death, Lacey Smarr weighed only 88 pounds.
Now, Candy Miller is on a mission to spread the word about eating disorders and help other teens overcome their struggles. The family recently started the Lacey Foundation, which will work with local doctors, counselors and treatment facilities to give teens with eating disorders the help they need to prevent tragedy.
“I feel like if we can save just one family from the grief we’re going through and the pain, then my daughter didn’t die in vain,” Miller said. “It will not just be an awareness foundation but a foundation where people who want and need help can come. Where we can put you with the people who can help you — counselors, hospitals, treatment centers. I want to make my lack of knowledge other people’s knowledge.”