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St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

A life-changing labour

B&V_BatesBeverley Bates had been sober for three months when she came to our Emergency Department (ED) with severe stomach pains. After struggling with cocaine addiction for many years, Beverly had been in the ED more times than she could count, but this occasion would prove life-changing.

“I was in so much pain, I thought I had kidney stones, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand—it was unbearable,” she recalls.

Following a series of tests, Beverley was shocked to learn that she was pregnant, in labour and so far along that she was immediately wheeled over to our Family Birthing Centre (FBC) for an emergency delivery.

“The moment I saw Violet she changed my life,” she said. “From that moment something was lifted from me.”

Violet was born premature and diagnosed with Downs Syndrome and a heart condition so she spent several days in the NICU— a challenging time for Beverley.

“When I found out she had Downs Syndrome, I felt incredibly guilty, I wondered if my substance abuse did this to her,” Beverley said. “My team of healthcare providers was so supportive, they explained it was a genetic disorder and encouraged me to realize that this was a gift; I realized I had to save her and she saved me as well.”

Just a few months earlier, Beverley decided she wanted to get clean. It wasn’t her first time at Glendale House, the addiction treatment facility at St. Joe’s; she had tried to break the cycle of addiction in the past. This time was different—as part of her recovery, she saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, a discovery that marked the beginning of a breakthrough.

“At first I felt the stigma of having a mental illness – I remember thinking, ‘why not do drugs?’ I had no hope,” Beverley said. “Then I realized I had to work through both issues, it put things in perspective and made me realize why it had been so difficult for me to quit.”

There is more awareness now than ever of the impact of mental health on our overall wellbeing, yet many people still don’t get treatment when they need it. The fear of being judged, an inability to pay for therapy, and not knowing where to find help can all be barriers to receiving care. People struggling with addictions and mental illness face the added challenge of treating two complex issues.

“I had been struggling a long time,” Beverley said. “As an addict you already feel embarrassed of what you’re doing; it can be hard to seek help.”

Glendale House has treatment options for people in all stages of addiction. Located just adjacent to our ED, the team works closely with the mental health program and ED to provide seamless transitions for all patients coming into the Health Centre.

From Glendale House to the FBC, Beverley was able to access a team of healthcare professionals who supported her through her journey to sobriety. Three and a half years later, Beverley is grateful for the consistent support.

“I went to many different hospitals which can be really hard – you always feel like people are judging you. St. Joe’s is different; I’ve always felt like they cared about me.”

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