• Doctors help babies born addicted to heroin

    By: Vanessa Welch , Kathryn Shehade

    Updated:

    BOSTON - Teens, adults, and now the rise of a new generation affected by the opioid crisis.

    According to federal statistics, every 25 seconds a baby is born-- helpless and hooked on opioids. Their battle to get clean is heart-wrenching.

    Four-month-old MacKenzie was born drug dependent.

    Her mom Caitlin was a full blown heroin addict by the age of 17, and found out she was pregnant while she was in detox.

    "I knew the baby was going to test positive. If it wasn’t for me getting pregnant I would’ve never got clean," Caitlin said.

    Caitlin knew then, in order to save her baby she needed help.

    Neonatal Abstinence Program at MGH

    "All these moms feel extreme guilt," said Dr. Leslie Kerzner, a Neonatologist at Mass General Hospital, and director of their Neonatal Abstinence Program.

    Kerzner said doctors are seeing more drug -dependent born babies than ever before.

    "If we can get the mother off heroin onto a prescribed maintenance therapy it decreases the ups and downs that the baby is seeing in utero," she said.

    Drug-Dependent Newborns in the US & Massachusetts

    According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the numbers are staggering, and show that newborns suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms have quadrupled across the U.S. In the past decade.

    In Massachusetts, the Department of Children and Families responded to just under 5,000 cases from March 2014 through February 2016.

    "We do monitor the baby for 96 hours or 4 days to make sure that they’re not going through any type of withdrawal," Kerzner said.

    If they are, doctor's must slowly wean the baby off the drugs, with drugs.

    "Neo-natal morphine is what we use here. We give just enough to capture the baby’s symptoms," She said.

    Video of a Drug-Dependent Newborn Fighting Withdrawal

    MGH shared this video of a baby going through withdrawal with FOX25.

    The withdrawal process can take weeks and be painful.

    Symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

    Symptoms include: Shaking, seizures, and sweating.

    MacKenzie showed all of these and more.

    "She had increased muscle tone, a little bit of tremors, she might’ve been breathing a little bit fast, getting a little sweaty - she might not have been feeding as well. So we did in fact have to admit her to the special care nursery here and start her on baby morphine," Kerzner said.

    Caitlin has been to more than ten of her friends' funerals, and found her best friend dead. But exactly one year after finding out she was pregnant Caitlin is still clean.

    She credits her own mother's love, her doctor's non-judgmental support and the program at MGH. But above all, says it's her daughter who saved her life.

    "You made mummy a whole different person. You're going to be ok," she tells her baby.

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