Easton, Pa. (WTXF) Pregnant and addicted: a local woman says that's what tore her family apart when her daughter's secret turned to tragedy.
FOX 29's Shawnette Wilson tells the emotional story.
"I was always sappy. I cried at stupid things to begin with on the regular . Now I cry at even stupider things," said Dori Porter. Life as she knew it a year ago has been turned upside down.
"Well ,I became a single parent of three small children all of a sudden and that's a big change," she said.
Meet Dori’s grandchildren; 4-year old Zae’yonah, 3-year old Zavi’yon and the youngest is 8-month old Za’lani. She has custody and is raising them with the help of her 16-year old daughter Keziah.
"I can tell you the weakest thing is sleep. I don't get any. Between nerves, work, kids, life I don't sleep properly."
To say Dori has been on an emotional rollercoaster doesn’t quite explain it. It’s more like a whirlwind of tragic events that begin with her oldest daughter Raeven the children’s mother.
"She was a mother who lived and breathed for her children," said Dori.
But on January 26th of last year Raeven stopped breathing. She would spend the following 5 months on life support because she was pregnant with her youngest daughter Za’Lani.
"The baby became the patient. My daughter was nothing more than a vessel to keep her there," said Dori who recalls that snowy January night in the Easton home they all shared. Raeven went into the bathroom after getting her children ready for bed. But she never came out.
"I said what are you doing? Camping out in there? And there was no response. It was like a fear fell into my stomach. I popped the lock on the door and when I opened the door she was sitting on the toilet and she was not breathing," said Dori. As she screamed for help she realized Zae’yonah was watching.
"It's all in her head. I think it's something she won't forget," said Dori.
What happened next hit Dori like a boulder. When paramedics arrived and moved her daughter’s lifeless body an ugly secret was revealed.
"I was shocked. I had no clue," she said. They found heroin packets. At 5 months pregnant Raeven had used and overdosed on heroin.
"I was shocked. I really was," said Dori.
But then Dori began to tell me that her daughter had a history of drug use but not heroin, she says, and not when she was pregnant with her first 2 children.
"At 15, it was just smoking weed as far as I know. I’d like to think that's all it was,” said Dori.
She says eventually her daughter progressed to pills: Zanax, Percocet and others.
"This is her size as a normal, healthy, non-pill popping person. And this one over here with both of the kids is when she was using," said Dori as she compared pictures of her daughter. She says the pills were Raeven’s biggest battle.
"If she'd taken pills and was sleeping through the night the kids could have built a house on top of her before she woke up."
But looking at pictures of her daughter, Dori recalls how Raeven would somehow manage to always get back on track.
"She was two weeks away from getting her G-E-D," said Dori. She strongly believes when Raeven overdosed she had just started using heroin because a few months prior she had served jail time for stealing jewelry when she last relapsed. Raeven was also going through a break up.
"She used heroin for two weeks approximately from what I could gather, that's it. She was on parole and she was having drug tests. Right before Christmas the baby's father said he was leaving and started seeing his other children's mother. And I knew that was a trigger," said Dori.
So again she started looking for signs.
"I was looking for the signs of when she used pills. I didn't see any. I thought oh maybe we are passed that."
But she was wrong. And this time it wasn’t pills Raeven turned to but heroin.
"I truly don't think that she set out to harm her child, her unborn child," said Dori.
Raeven was kept alive on life support for months at Lehigh Valley Hospital until doctors could deliver Za’lani by C-section.
"The baby was supposed to be delivered June 12th. They delivered her June 9th. Her body was starting to be distressed, she had developed a staph infection and they were worried that would be passed to the baby. She had started to spike a fever, possibly pneumonia, so at that point they felt it was best to deliver the baby," said Dori.
Today, at 8 months old, Za’lani is adorable and a miracle baby. But her tiny body is now forced to battle addiction.
"She was born addicted. Not to the heroin because it had been so long that the heroin obviously was out of her system. But she was born addicted to the Phenobarbital and the Benzodiazepine that they used to control Raeven's seizures while she was on life support. She had to go through Methadone and Adderall to get through the withdrawals of that."
Doctors say Za’lani’s first M-R-I showed a perfectly normal looking brain but Dori feels her granddaughter in some ways may be developmentally delayed.
"I still worry about if there's any damage," she said.
With Za’Lani in NICU the next thing Dori did was say goodbye to her daughter. Raeven was taken off life support June 11th, two days after her baby girl was born.
"The neurologist at Lehigh Valley said the best way to describe it was that her light wasn't on anymore. He said she’s there, you can see her but the best way to describe it is her internal light isn’t on anymore,” said Dori.
Family and friends held a vigil for Raeven. But for Dori there was no time to grieve. She now had 3 young children to care for and a 16-year old of her own whose life would also change forever.
"Now it's kind of like balancing a social life, school work and three kids. Like my mom said it's like being a single mom technically," said 16-year old Keziah who’s been robbed of being a typical teen. She’s consumed with worry about her mom, nieces and nephew who she helps with all week. Keziah is alone with them on weekends while Dori works two 16 hour days.
"I worry about her stress and her health. I worry about the kids growing up and having like a terrible feeling about their mother because of her decisions," said Keziah. And then there’s the emotional weight of the loss of her older sister who she loved and desperately wanted to get better. But in an odd way, Keziah says the children have become her comfort by filling the void of Raeven.
"At first I did not want to do this at all but now I couldn't really see my life without them," said Keziah as she began to cry. Her tears tell the tragic tale of how heroin ruins more lives than the one who uses it. Dori says it’s strong enough to cut through a mother’s love and protection of her children. But she wants others to know heroin had taken over the person her daughter really was.
"The biggest thing I've heard from so many families is if she loves her kids, if she loves my kids, she'll stop. That is not a logical sentence to an addict. It's not. They can have all the love in the world. What it does to your family is unheard of. It’s a pain I don’t think I ever imagined,” said Dori.