By Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
The mother of late Big Brother star Nikki Grahame has said her daughter had a BMI of 10 and was so “pitiful” she could not walk up the stairs when she died at the age of 38 while battling an eating disorder.
The TV personality appeared on the seventh series of the reality show in 2006, and despite finishing fifth became one of its most recognisable contestants.
She later spoke publicly about how she developed anorexia while still a child and struggled with the condition throughout her life, spending time in hospital on a number of occasions.
Speaking ahead of the first anniversary of her death on April 9th, her mother Sue Grahame told BBC Breakfast that her daughter started to show signs of an eating disorder from the age of eight, when she refused to sit down in a restaurant on Mother’s Day.
Mrs Grahame said: “That was the start. And from there, I just noticed that she became very withdrawn and was just going into a decline.
“Little did I know it was going to be a 32-year journey.”
She said she watched her daughter unable to climb the stairs, instead resorting to her hands and knees, and recalled trying to hold her head back to put food in her mouth in a particularly challenging moment.
Mrs Grahame said the situation became more difficult when her daughter became an adult and she did not have a say in her medical care.
She said: “It was always a battle. But at least when she was a child, I had some input. As soon as she was an adult, they can’t even look at you. They don’t even make eye contact, it’s none of our business.”
Recalling the day she died, Mrs Grahame said her daughter had a BMI of just 10.
Doctors consider a healthy BMI for women to be 18.5–24.9.
She said: “She was discharged from hospital. She came down to visit me, she collapsed and she was blue lighted into the local hospital in Dorset and she was there for two weeks.
“She had a BMI of 10, she was pitiful, and I went there every day to shower her, to dress her, to sit with her while she ate, to take the load off the nurses, it wasn’t a specialised unit.
“Nikki managed to convince them ‘I’ll be fine when I go home, I’m going back to the clinic on Monday’, but they’d already said we can’t have you because you can’t make stairs and so they let her home and she died that night.
“But she rang me at half-three in the morning and she said ‘Hi mum’, she was quite normal, she normally did it when she was drunk. She said ‘I managed to get to the loo’, she’d ordered herself a walking frame so she managed to get into the loo.
“I said ‘well done darling, that’s the way, every day just write down one thing that’s been positive today. You’ll get there, there is no hurry’.
“She said ‘Mum, I’m so tired’. So I said ‘Go to sleep darling. I’ll call you in the morning’, and she died.”
Mrs Grahame said she continues to be glad her daughter took part in Big Brother, and that Nikki never regretted being on the show.
She told Breakfast: “She said in interviews before that Big Brother saved her life, because I think that was the healthiest and happiness that she had been for those years.
“I think when she got voted out, she thought that everybody hated her, she always had this low self-esteem.
“So when the doors opened and she heard the cheering, it was genuine, her tears.
“She was shocked because Nikki never got it. She said ‘I don’t get it, I don’t know why people are acting like this’. She never saw her worth.
“I know that her going on Big Brother was her dream and I’m really glad she did, because I felt she deserved it. Because she’d lost her childhood, and I thought, ‘This is what you should have. This is yours’.”
Grahame is the subject of a new Channel 4 documentary, which will coincide with the anniversary of her death.