Well I suppose the hardest part of telling any story is figuring out where to begin, So allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ashley, I am 30 years old, I am a daughter, a wife, a mother and I am also an inmate in the Arizona Department of Corrections. Is this the way I planned my life? Not exactly. . . I was voted “most likely to be a pop star” in my senior year of high school and look at me now! I’m far from making headlines, at least the ones I had hoped to be making.
So, what went wrong you ask? I ask myself the same question everyday. I grew up in a good family, always stayed out of trouble, I thought I could overdose on marijuana for heavens sake, let alone try any other drug. Yet here I sit.
So, I suppose the best answer I can give to that question is “life happened.” Honestly it happens to everyone. One bad decision, one big mistake, a wrong turn, one simple little thing can change everything. Something happens and you have to react, cope, deal with it, run away. Somehow you make a choice and it has massive consequences.
On December 29, 2011 my husband and I were on our way to the ultrasound of our 4th baby. What we imagined would be a happy occasion, until the technician spent a little too long in one area and called in a second opinion. Our lives were about to change drastically. I would like to say that was the worst moment in my life but I would be lying.
After being informed of numerous possible conditions, Our baby was diagnosed with Pulmonary Agensis. She only had one lung. Oh yeah Surprise, Its a girl!
Four months later, on Easter, April 8, 2012 our little Electra Marie was born. (We named her after a superhero because we knew she was going to have to be strong) She spent a month in the NICU until we finally got to bring her home. She had to have oxygen assistance and we knew we had a long road ahead of us but she was going to be OK.
Two weeks later her pulse oxminitor starts screaming at me and Electra has passed out in my arms. She is not breathing, I’m scared, I’m helpless. My husband and I rush her to the emergency room and we have every doctors undivided attention. They aren’t equipped for someone as unique as her and have Peyton Manning’s Childrens hospital on the way for transport to a better equipped facility.
The worst thing I have ever had to witness was my 7lb baby be intubated. The whole process is a nightmare and I still go numb at the thought. Electra spent 3 weeks in Indianapolis before being flown to Cincinnati’s Childrens Hospital where she was then diagnosed with complete tracheal rings. She was going to need a procedure called a “ Slide Traecoplasty” Which gained her the nickname of “Electra Slide” We spent 8 months at the the childrens hospital battling back and forth with Electra’s life and my husband and I made the biggest mistake of our lives. We were introduced to Heroin to help “take the edge off.” You know what? It worked. We completely zoned ourselves out to cope with the unexpected of everyday and she got better and we moved to Arizona but we just got worse.
Heroin is not exactly something you just decide to quit. It makes you physically and mentally sick. I couldn’t be sick I had to take care of my baby, so I kept using, before too long we were using one drug to counteract the other drug to cancel out the other just to feel normal. Which was ultimately miserable. I was losing my mind and I needed help so one day when I took Electra to her Pulmonologist I fell apart and admitted I needed help.
That is the best decision I had ever made even though it led me here. People don’t tend to listen to a drug addict. We weren’t from here and no one knew us so we just looked like a couple of junkies. Electra was admitted to the hospital CPS became involved and before we even knew what happened my husband and I were in jail accused of child abuse.
I just knew I needed help, was that what I expected for doing the right thing? Not in a million years. CPS took custody of our kids, Electra was in the hospital where the doctors were completely ignoring her care plan because what was helping her was considered “Experimental” and My husband and I were in jail and there was nothing we could do. I tried writing letters to the judge to MADD but they were useless. No one would listen.
On January 2, 2014 my husband and I were notified in county jail that our baby had passed away on new years day. That was the worst day of my life. I still fight with myself saying I should have tried harder to get someone to listen, to help her, to save my baby.
A week later the prosecutor and CPS apologized for our loss and offered us a 3 year plea in prison. Five months later we agreed to plead guilty for allowing our drug addiction to effect the way we cared for our children.
The truth hurts and learning to accept it and move on is even harder. I was a mess when I arrived here at Perryville. I didn’t feel like I deserved anything after ruining everything because I couldn’t handle what life was giving me, but Televerde has given me a second chance. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. We have classes to rebuild our self esteem and an environment that promotes healing. We all have our own story and most of them are the result of one bad choice, but Televerde and the Arouet foundation have given us the opportunity to rise above our circumstance.
I could have very easily gave up a long time ago, but now I am strong enough to share my story, Electra’s story and hopefully make a difference for someone else.