Faces of Heroin: Pregnant mother beats addiction with help from - Toledo News Now, News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Faces of Heroin: Pregnant mother beats addiction with help from guardian angel

(Source: WTOL) (Source: WTOL)
TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) -

Danette Salazar is a happy mother with a four-month-old baby girl.

You wouldn't guess that just a year ago, she was homeless at four months pregnant and hooked on heroin.

Salazar was first introduced to drugs when she would take her friends' prescription pills. That soon lead to a heroin habit, a habit she was unable to kick.

Thinking about what the drug could be doing to her baby girl, Salazar tried to quit cold turkey.

“I was scared for her,” Salazar said. “I didn’t want her to be harmed. And I thought what I was doing was hurting her and was also hurting myself too. I wanted to change.”

Salazar was faced with the battle of trying to beat her drug addiction, a battle that many don't win.

She started having severe withdrawal symptoms and ended up in the emergency room at the hospital.

 “It wasn’t a good situation, and I went to the hospital because I was going through withdrawal. That’s when I met my guardian angel, Kathy,” Salazar said.

That 'guardian angel' is Kathy Okuley, a social worker with the Mother-Child Dependency program at Mercy Children’s Hospital. A doctor at Mercy St. Vincent told her a pregnant mother was in the ER with withdrawal symptoms.

“She was in horrible shape,” Okuley said of Salazar. “And the women that I’ve seen in withdrawal, you’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like they want to pull their insides out.”

Okuley scheduled Salazar to get treatment the very next day, but didn’t hear back from her for days.

Finally, Okuley got a text from Salazar that said she was ready to go to treatment.

"I was able to answer, 'Yeah, girl! I'll be there,'" said Okuley. 

In 2009, approximately 10 babies born at Mercy St. Vincent's were impacted by the heroin epidemic. 

That number grew to more than 70 babies born to addicted mothers in 2016.

"What we witness is extremely hard to watch," said Dr. Gagan Brar of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mercy Children's Hospital. "It's something I am sure would be extremely hard for the babies to go through."

Dr. Brar says that some babies go through withdrawal just like adults do after birth, and can often be inconsolable. 

“Babies, they may be irritable. They won’t feed. They will puke. They won’t sleep,” Dr, Brar said. 

The Mother-Child Dependency program at Mercy Hospital helps addicted mothers get clean while they are pregnant and stay sober after birth.

That gives the moms and their babies a better shot at a healthy life. It also increases the chance they can live together.

 Dr. Brar says around 80 percent of the mothers in the program take their babies home.

 “So it is a very small percentage of babies that end up in foster care. The majority of our mothers end up going home with their own babies,” Dr. Brar explained.

One of those mothers is Danette Salazar. Her daughter, Aviana, now four-months-old, was not born addicted.

“I just couldn’t wait to take her home,” Salazar said. "I believe that she's an angel that saved my life."

Salazar says that she has stayed clean because she changed her friends, her phone number and her life. Now she is ready to bring her family back in her life.

Salazar is hoping to go back to school and possibly become a drug addiction social worker, like her guardian angel Kathy Okuley.

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