Nikki Grahame's devastated loved ones thought she was 'on the road to recovery' before sudden death

TRAGIC Nikki Grahame’s loved ones were blindsided by her death on Friday as they were led to believe her health was improving.

The Big Brother star, 38, was due to start receiving “more relaxed” private treatment for her anorexia today after being deemed well enough to be discharged from emergency care just 24 hours before her passing.

But concerned friends and family opposed the move and campaigned for Nikki to continue undergoing emergency treatment at an eating disorder clinic, which she had been admitted to three weeks prior.

A source close to the star said: “Given the severity of Nikki’s condition and the strain already put on her body from 30 years of battling anorexia, there were major reservations about scaling back her care.

“When her friends set up the GoFundMe page for her treatment last month, they privately admitted to feeling a massive responsibility to help her recover.

“They were prepared to make tough decisions and agree to drastic measures for an extensive period if it meant saving her life.

“Although there were concerns that Nikki still needed heightened care, she did seem to be doing relatively well and her discharge was a cause for cautious optimism among her inner circle.

“Nikki, unfortunately, had suffered many relapses in her life, but this time she was more determined than ever to get better and the outpouring of support buoyed her.

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“That she lost her battle when she appeared to be moving in the right direction made her passing all the more shocking and heartbreaking.”

Fans raised almost £69,000 for Nikki's private treatment after friends said they had “exhausted every avenue possible” through the NHS.

A message on her GoFundMe page said: “She feels trapped and really wants to get better but feels like it’s impossible. It’s heart-breaking and we desperately just want a healthy and well Nikki back with us.”

Donations have been frozen in the wake of her death and the sum will be donated to an eating disorder charity.

A friend said: “Nikki had an element of unease about going public with the GoFundMe page, but people really connected with her story and she managed to do so much to raise awareness of eating disorders.

Helplines on eating disorders and body image

For help and support on eating disorders and body image, you can call Beat Eating Disorders.

Their adult helpline is 0808 201 1677. The youth helpline is on 0808 801 0711

“Her death came as such a shock that those closest to her are still trying to wrap their heads around what happened.

“But once they feel ready – and any donation refunds have been processed – they will ensure the money goes to preserving her legacy.”

Tributes poured in from Nikki’s Big Brother co-stars and celebrity pals following news of her death.

Last night, model Imogen Thomas, 38, who became one of her closest confidantes during the 2006 series, said: “There was nothing more we could do to save Nikki.

“I need time to grieve over my best friend. We tried everything to beat that soul destroying illness. I’m broken.

“Please hold the ones you love close and tell them you love them. Life is too short. I’m sorry Nik. I love you.”

Former boyfriend Pete Bennett, 39, who won their series, told Sky News today: “My heart goes out to everyone who was trying to help her.

"When I found out she was ill in the last lockdown, she told me not to say she was getting care but she rang me up and said, ‘Pete I’m ill, come and get me in the clinic’, but this lockdown happened and I remember seeing the fundraiser… and I was like ‘oh my God she’s really, really ill man’.

“I was in London at the time and I just went and got in the cab and went over there, and my girlfriend who is a mental health nurse, and we just tried to give her as much love and support.

"I thought the love I had would just boost her up and get her out the darkness.

"Look at what it’s done, it’s taken one of the best characters that the world’s ever seen, it’s just rubbish man.”

Big Brother host Davina McCall, 53, said she was “desperately sad” to hear about Nikki’s death, adding: “She was the funniest, most bubbly, sweetest girl.”

Speaking last month, Nikki’s mum Sue, 66, told how the closure of gyms, “terminal loneliness” and an accident during lockdown had seen her relapse.

She said: “From the first lockdown it was hellish. She struggled because she couldn’t go to the gym.

“Then in December she fell down and cracked her pelvis in two places and broke her wrist.

“I stayed with her for three or four weeks because she couldn’t do anything.”

Nikki was one of the youngest people in the UK with anorexia when she received her diagnosis at the age of eight. The following year, she was hospitalised as her weight fell to just three stone.

Nikki penned two books about living with an eating disorder – 2009’s Dying To Be Thin and 2012’s Fragile – and once wrote: “I look forward to a future where anorexia’s voice will be silenced.”

For help and support on eating disorders and body image, you can call Beat Eating Disorders on 0808 201 1677 for adults, or 0808 801 0711 if you are under 18.

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