RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - Last year, it's estimated more than 1,400 babies were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in Kentucky. Kentucky has an NAS rate that's almost three times the national average.
Three-year-old Isabella met us at the door of her home as if we'd known her her whole life. She immediately started asking questions about the camera equipment we were carrying. Not intimidated like a lot of kids, just curious.
Isabella's adoptive mother, Jessica Hart, brought her baby home from the hospital when she was 6 1/2 weeks old. Isabella had just been weened off morphine and was able to leave the hospital on two other medications to help ease the effects of her birth mother's drug abuse.
"There were too many symptoms for her little body to handle," Hart recalls. "I have pictures of her when she was really little in the hospital and she had red lines on her arms from where she just stayed so tight."
Hart had no plans of adopting Isabella. Isabella was the 7th baby she had fostered. But she said there was always something special about Isabella. And when Isabella was five months old, her birth mother gave her up for adoption.
Hart doesn't believe Isabella's birth mother intentionally caused harm to her daughter. It was the addiction. "I was angry she had to go through that. I hate it for her and I hate it that that was something she had to live through, and that she's going to have to deal with this potentially for the rest of her life," Hart said.
The message Hart wants people to realize about babies born with NAS is the setbacks don't stop when they leave the NICU. "She struggled hard but, it doesn't end when withdrawals are done." Hart said Isabella has sensory issues and trouble regulating her emotions. She has a high tolerance for pain and for medications. She also overcome several physical and mental setbacks.
But there's so much about Isabella that would remind you of any three-year-old. Hart sees a "super-smart spunky girl." She went on, "Just to grow and watch her learn and explore, her brain is phenomenal."