Opioid epidemic strikes home for Arkansas family

Parents cope with daughter’s abuse of heroin and fentanyl

Hope Hankins was driving to work the morning of April 11 when she got a phone call from her daughter's boyfriend.

"She's done it again," he told her.

Hankins' daughter, Madeline Tate, had overdosed on a combination of heroin and fentanyl. It was her third overdose involving heroin since 2015.

Hankins tearfully recalled waiting at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary for doctors to let her see Tate. She remembers being grateful that her 20-year-old daughter survived. But she also remembers being angry.

Hankins said she and her husband Tom had sought help for Tate for years. She'd had four stints at drug rehabilitation centers. They had arranged for court-ordered drug testing. They had even hired a private investigator to keep tabs on Tate.

But Tate's addiction kept winning.

"Trying to get help for someone in this situation is nearly impossible," Tom Hankins said.

Tate's drug abuse had devastating effects on her body.

The morning of her fentanyl overdose, when doctors at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary decided to give her naloxone, they found that her veins were so swollen and irritated from drug abuse that it was not a viable pathway to deliver the anti-opioid medicine.

So they drilled a hole into Tate's leg bone to access her venous system, a painful procedure known as intraosseous infusion.

Her family has also felt a physical toll from her addiction. Hope Hankins said her constant stress and worrying has increased her blood pressure and caused her hair to fall out in clumps. She said she's also sought treatment for anxiety attacks.

There's also crying and arguments between her and her husband. The fights come from their frustration, their helplessness over how to help their daughter.

"It's like a hell I'd never wish my enemy to have to live in," Hope Hankins said.

The two are optimistic about Tate's chances for sobriety this time. She's at a 90-day treatment center in Mississippi, the longest program she's tried. Hope Hankins visited a few weeks ago and said there was a "light and brightness" in her daughter's eyes that she hadn't seen in years.

"We don't know if this is the end or not," Tom Hankins said. "But we pray to God it is."

In Arkansas, 392 people died from drug overdoses in 2015, a rate of 13.8 people per 100,000, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"You think that drug addiction and heroin addiction is so far away from you," Hope Hankins said. "It's not. It's right here."

Information for this article was contributed by Eric Besson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A Section on 07/17/2017

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