TJ Warschefsky's mom Susan thought her son was a happy and healthy kid. The Okemos Schools student was a great athlete and a high achiever in school, but when he removed his shirt at a pool party, Susan realized something was wrong. She spoke about that moment on the katie show....
"I said to him when the party was over... how much weight have you lost, honey? And he said Mom, we're doing two a days for soccer. I said I don't care if you're doing four a days. I'm taking you to the doctor. You must have a tape worm or something," said Susan Barry.
But TJ didn't have a tape worm, he had an eating disorder-one that took his life 9 years later, when he was a dental student at Marquette University. He went from an athletic young man, to having a body wracked by starvation and excessive exercise. In the year's following his death, Susan was contacted by 35 Mid-Michigan families trying to help their children with eating disorders. She encouraged them to place their kids in treatment right away.
"I would tell these parents... I understand why you want to wait until after the senior year, but would you like to come up to TJ's bedroom and see all of the trophies, all of his awards, all of his scholarships, all of his metals, because I couldn't put them all in his coffin," said Barry.
But Susan found there weren't many specialized treatment options the area. And she met another family who felt the same--- Brit Sommerfield's family. Like TJ, Brit lost her life after a long battle with an eating disorder.
"It is... I think a little helpful just to see another family who went through the same struggle we did, and that they've like us come out the side a little bit hopeful and willing to help," said Brit's sister Cara Gardner.
So, the families teamed up to help, with the help of the therapists at "A Healing Place" in Jackson to open "TJ and Britt's place"- an eating disorder treatment center. Patients are given specialized care to help them on the road to recovery.
"Having a physician that works with eating disorders, a therapist, a dietitian and then a psychiatrist," said Betsy Vickers, A Healing Place Therapist.
TJ and Britt's families hope their losses breathe new life into people struggling as their loved ones did.