A close up look at heroin's 'horrible cycle'

Staff writerNovember 24, 2013 

Shooting up heroin nearly killed 20-year-old Jordan Baynes last year.

But it wasn’t the drug that put her into a coma for a month. It likely was bacteria on the needle she used that caused an infection on a heart valve, doctors said.

She fell into septic shock and needed emergency open-heart surgery to remove the infected valve.

Despite Baynes’ brush with death at her family’s cabin in Kettle Falls and trying to kick her heroin habit, she still is in its grasp.

Asked recently if she still uses heroin, she turned her eyes down and nodded.

“It’s a black hole, that’s all it is,” she said. “It eats you up and spits you out and you aren’t the same person. It kills you.”

Baynes agreed to tell her story in the hopes it might discourage other young people from trying heroin.

At 20, she is the prime demographic — people 18 to 29 years old — for the new wave of heroin users.

“It was easy to find it,” Baynes said as she sat at a coffee table in her grandfather’s home on Olympia’s west side, a hospital bracelet around her wrist, a tracheotomy scar on her neckline. “Twenty dollars a half-gram.”

She said her drug abuse started with marijuana and hallucinogens. She tried a painkiller now and then, but it was not her drug of choice.

Baynes first used heroin at age 15, scoring the drug on the streets of downtown Olympia with some friends. She became an addict about a year later when she and her then-boyfriend purchased the drug.

“I started using every day,” she said.

Baynes’ mother, Jacinda Harper, said her daughter’s heroin addiction blind-sided her entire family. She said that before Jordan began using heroin she didn’t know anyone who had ever tried the drug.

Harper didn’t think it was available in Olympia, where she sent her 15-year-old daughter to live with a grandparent. Harper said she sent Jordan from their Tenino home to remove her from what she believed were negative influences there.

Baynes said her parents are not to blame for her heroin habit.

“It can happen to anybody, that’s what’s so horrible,” she said. “I had a great childhood. I have a great family that loves me.”

The first time Baynes got clean she was 17 and enrolled at the South Sound Clinic on Martin Way, where she took a daily dose of methadone to keep her cravings at bay.

“That was the best treatment program I have ever been to,” she said, adding that counseling at the clinic helped reinforce her sobriety.

“They treat you good, they treat you like a person,” Baynes said. “They give you structure and they make you stick to a routine. Addicts need that.”

But a juvenile criminal conviction for selling heroin to a friend ended Baynes’ time at the clinic. In June 2011, she was sent to Echo Glen, a juvenile rehabilitation facility in Snoqualmie, for about a year.

The chemical dependency program at Echo Glen included Narcotics Anonymous and kept her sober but did not allow her to continue her methadone therapy, Baynes said.

After getting out of Echo Glen, Baynes fell in with old friends and started using heroin again.

She said a friend’s death from a heroin overdose in August 2012 made her think seriously about stopping again.

To help her get clean, Baynes’ family took her to the cabin in Kettle Falls in September 2012.

But Harper became nervous when what she thought were her daughter’s heroin withdrawals didn’t end after the usual two-day period.

When doctors determined Baynes was suffering from a heart infection and not heroin withdrawal, she underwent surgery.

As a result of the operation, Baynes — her voice raspy and tired — said she’s easily exhausted from lifting objects or even short walks. She said she’s terrified about having a second surgery this year to replace her heart valve.

Harper’s eyes well up when she discusses her daughter’s addiction.

“I hate heroin,” she said. “People don’t want to hear about it. It’s a dirty little drug.”

Harper said she couldn’t force her daughter to get help and wishes a judge could have ordered Baynes into treatment.

If she had a chance to do it over again, Harper said, she would have sold her house to come up with the $20,000 to $40,000 to pay for private, inpatient drug treatment out of state.

In the meantime, Baynes remains another addict in Olympia.

She said a circle of about 15 friends still use. One, she said, stole from a grandparent to feed a heroin habit. Another took $8 from a brother’s piggy bank, “just so he could get well.”

“That’s not who we all are,” Baynes insisted. “While you’re sick, you don’t have a conscience. When you get well, that eats at you and you want to do it again. … It’s a horrible cycle.”

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