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Woman Shares Story Of Being Drug Addicted Mother, Struggle For Recovery

Reported by: Send eMail Katelyn Sykes
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Nov. 20, 2013 8:35 AM EST
Updated: Nov. 20, 2013 11:03 AM EST

Eyewitness News Photo
Eyewitness News Photo

Huntington , Cabell County , West Virginia

Nie’sha Dodson knows the pain of being a drug-addicted mother. She gave birth to three children who suffered through her drug use and became addicts themselves.

"I was supposed to protect them and I hurt them," she said.

Drugs have taken a tremendous toll on the 30-year-old Cabell County mother’s life. When her drug use was discovered, she lost everything. Her kids were taken away from her. Her two sons are now in foster care and the two youngest live with their father.

Nie’sha’s story is not unique. The rate of babies being born addicted to drugs across the country is astounding. A Huntington hospital reaches full capacity almost on a weekly basis as doctors and nurses try to take care of babies born suffering through their mother's drug use.

In Nie'sha’s case, drug use started when she was just 17. She started snorting cocaine. From there, she got into alcohol, crack cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

"When you're not in your right mind and you are just reckless, that disease always wins if you let it," she said.

Nothing was stopping her. Not even when she found out she was pregnant. Two of her three sons were born addicted to drugs, but she somehow managed to keep it a secret from her fiance.

"I couldn't stop," she said. "I couldn't even protect this unborn child that was inside of me."

But when her youngest daughter was born last September that secret came out.

"It broke my heart to see that look on her dad's face when they said that because he had no idea," she said. "I thought I was the best at hiding and keeping these secrets of getting high and not showing my true colors and it came out.

"I got away with this for so long, having kids born addicted that I thought I could do it again. That's how cunning and evil this disease is. I kept telling myself I didn't have a problem then but I just never got caught."

For doctors and nurses at Cabell Huntington Hospital, stories such as Nie'sha's are all too common. They are seeing addicted babies at an alarming rate.

"We have about 13 percent of all deliveries that have occurred at our hospital this year are exposed to some sort of substance whereas the rest of the country has point three percent," said Dr. Sean Loudin, medical director for the Neonatal Therapeutic Unit. "It's almost 50 times what the national numbers suggest."

To deal with this problem, the hospital created a special wing, the Neonatal Therapeutic Unit. Loudin came up with the protocols used to wean babies off of drugs. He said recovery is long and hard. Some of these babies are very agitated, will cry for long periods of time or experience tremors so severe their entire body shakes. On average, 23 babies undergo recovery treatment at a time and will spend up to 25 days in the hospital.

"They need to have a quiet place, they need to have a dark place and they need to have a place where their caregivers, nurses . . . can fully support them in a nurturing environment," Loudin said.

One of those nurses is Sara Murray, the clinical coordinator for the Neonatal Therapeutic Unit.

"If you have ever talked to an adult who has gone through withdrawal cold turkey, it's very painful, it's very traumatizing and it's no different for a baby," Murray said. "Only they can't tell anybody. All they can do is cry."

The need for help for babies doesn't end right there. A new facility is set to open just blocks away from Cabell-Huntington Hospital that also will provide therapeutic care for these babies. It's called Lily's Place.

Mary Calhoun Brown, a member of the Board of Directors at Lily's Place, said the facility will be “a wonderful community outreach to try to help babies that are born addicted to their mother's drugs.”

Sixteen nurseries were fully furnished and decorated by the community and are now ready to take care of 29 babies.

"You can't help what you've done in the past, but you sure can make steps and make good decisions for the future," Calhoun Brown said. "And that's really what we're hoping here at Lily's Place is not only to get a baby to the point where it doesn't need drugs to feel comfortable but also to empower that family to know there are good things outside of drug addiction and we would like to introduce you to those things."

Good things are on the way for Nie'sha, who is on the path to recovery and is already more than 120 days sober. She is hoping to share her story to keep other moms from following in her footsteps.

"Babies are being born addicted right now as I speak and it's not their choice," she said. "They didn't ask to be born addicts. They are born addicts already. It's in their veins, it's in their blood. And that's a sad thing in that they don't choose that. We chose that for them. And it's really hard to forgive yourself for that."

Nie'sha said she has a lot for which to be thankful.

"I'm trying to day by day (to have) just something that I'm grateful for," she said. "What are you grateful for today Nie'sha? And I'm just grateful I don't have to get high today."

But she is trying to find forgiveness one day a time and is hoping to reunite with her four children while providing the best life for a son due in February.

"I want to be clean," she said. "I want to be sober. And I want to be a decent human being and a productive member of society, and I want to be someone's mother again."

Nie'sha is undergoing recovery treatment through the Renaissance Program at Prestera in Huntington. If you know someone battling addiction and needs help, give Prestera a call at 304- 697-2190.

Lily's Place should open by the end of 2013. Calhoun Brown said the facility will be relying on the community for support once it opens, especially in providing diapers. She expects to go through 270 diapers a day. If you want more information about Lily's Place, you can check out its website here

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