WOOSTER, Ohio – The FOX 8 I-Team has been investigating how heroin hits home in Northeast Ohio.
The response has been overwhelming from viewers who’ve survived a life of addiction or watched a loved one suffer.
But many have fought back against all odds, including 22-year-old Rachel Peterson, who had a heroin problem before she was born.
“I was bombarded with ear infections and colds and at one point, they thought I would lose my hearing; I was at risk for hearing loss,” said Rachel, who was born in a Cleveland hospital addicted to heroin.
She said her mother used the drug, along with other drugs, throughout most of her pregnancy with Rachel.
“My birth mom wound-up leaving the hospital without giving them any information, like what she wanted to name me, or anything like that - so they ended up calling me baby girl,” said Rachel.
Rachel was turned over to the state but when she was six days old, foster parents from Wayne County met her case worker and took her home. She had a new start with her ‘new’ dad and mom.
“She picked me up at McDonald’s – there’s a funny story about that – I’m known as the Happy Meal baby in my family because that’s the first place my mom picked me up from and met me,” said Rachel.
Today, she’s one of 11 kids in her family, eight of them adopted, including Rachel.
Unfortunately, her story isn’t the norm. As the I-Team reported, the heroin epidemic in Ohio now kills one person in the state every five hours and kills more people each year than car accidents do.
That’s why Rachel is speaking out, because she’s a survivor who knows it doesn’t have to be that way. “I’ve been very, very lucky. I’m very lucky.”
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said heroin devastation is among the top, if not the top, law enforcement threat in our community.
Rachel still copes with a minor heart problem and occasional breathing issues but nothing too serious. She was an addict, not by choice, but she’s making the choice now to make a difference for someone else.
“A lot of people always ask me, why would you wanna share that information? I’m not ashamed of it. I overcame it.”
Rachel has met her birth parents but said they don’t have a close relationship. She said her real heroes are her mom and dad, who took Rachel in when she was six days old.
She now works with developmentally disabled children and adults.