Kala: Heroin's Secret Consequences

I want to start by telling you about my niece, Kala, who was born in October of 1994. I was in the delivery room when she arrived and witnessed her first breath. I watched her grow up, she was a month older than my son and they were the best of friends. They went to school together and was always together outside of school. Kala had my daddy’s blue eyes, my brother’s curly hair, and amazing complexion and the bubbliest personality I’ve ever seen. I was her aunt “Ludie”.

Shortly after high school, Kala got pregnant and delivered a healthy baby boy that she named “David” after my older brother who had recently died. Kala was so proud of him and was excited to be a mother.

Once home, Kala was tired a lot and very pale, she didn’t eat much, and I was worried she was anemic. Kala got to the point where she couldn’t walk from one room to the next without being exhausted. Although she hated doctors, she finally agreed to go to the local emergency room. It wasn’t even hours later when she was transferred to a larger hospital for what we thought was pneumonia.

Once there, she went through numerous test and doctors. Kala was diagnosed with a condition called “bacterial endocarditis”. The infection had damaged her heart valves so badly they had to be replaced and the surgery was scheduled for the next day. That night she had multiple massive strokes that took her life. At the age of 19 my beautiful niece was gone; my baby brother was shattered, and life would never be the same.

Kala contracted the bacteria using heroin. Its source was a dirty needle, and Kala’s story is quite common in

young adults that use IV drugs. Who ever heard of a 19-year-old dying from a heart condition that developed because of drug use? Maybe from an overdose but not that! Kala had used drugs with her friends, but our family had no idea she was addicted, much less addicted to something that could damage her heart so badly or kill her with a single use. Kala wasn’t a bad kid, but she got wrapped up with the wrong crowd, made some bad decisions and it cost her - her life.

I have spent countless hours consoling my brother, trying to help him understand. He is angry at her friends, the pushers and the sellers. Kala made the decision to use the drug, but I’m sure she had no idea it would affect her the way it did. My brother is now raising baby David, he will be 4 years old in June. David will never know how beautiful and precious his mother was.

Photograph compliments of Lucy Blevins-Meadows

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