UNION, Ky. – By all accounts, Keegan is a happy, smiling 5-year-old boy loving life, especially when he gets to play with his train set. But behind his smile are the lasting effects that his mother passed onto him, hindering him for a lifetime.
Keegan’s birth mother was a heroin addict.
Her addiction is costing not only her youngest son the chance at a normal life, but also millions of dollars in infant treatment and foster care.
Currently, one out of every 10 babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center is born addicted to heroin. And from 2012 to 2013, the number of babies doctors treat for neonatal abstinence syndrome has doubled.
“It is a shocking statistic,” said NICU Medical Director Ward Rice. “As a person who takes care of babies, obviously you feel bad for those babies, but part of my job is to lessen their burden and make those babies feel better.”
For Keegan, another mother was waiting in the wings of foster care to give him the chance at life that his birth mother could not.
Born Innocent and Addicted
It’s no mystery where Keegan gets his beaming smile or contagious laugh; however, it's not the only thing that his birth mother, Cynthia Inabnitt, passed down to her son.
Inabnitt, now 37, was 23 years old when her addicted began: First with marijuana, then prescription pain pills for a lifelong ailment in her lower back. And then came heroin once here prescription ran out.
“The only thing I could afford was the heroin,” Inabnitt said.
So began her love affair with the drug for more than five years.
“It took me away from how I was feeling. It gave me this energy. I was superman, or superwoman—no hurting, no problems. It numbed all the feeling, and all the aches and pains that I was having,” she said.
“I wish I had never discovered it."
She didn't learn it soon enough for Keegan.
“Keegan will never live a normal life,” said Jenny Knecht, of Union, Ky., who adopted Keegan after fostering him from virtually the moment he was born.
You can listen to Keegan's biological mother tell her story in the video player above.
WCPO Insiders can read Keegan's full story and learn how much babies born to addicted mothers costs -- not only money but quality of life.