In her role as a peer recovery specialist with Alton Memorial Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine, Terrea Harper knows she can have a significant effect on patients with whom she interacts. But she never thought a brief encounter in the AMH Emergency Department in late October would turn into a living tribute.
Harper spent a few hours speaking with Shamyria Wingate, an East St. Louis woman who ended up at AMH on Oct. 27 dealing with addiction to opioid pain pills she was taking to treat a back injury. Seven months pregnant and with four other young children, Wingate was – among other things – considering giving up this baby. But a few hours talking with Harper changed her – so much so that when the baby did arrive on Jan. 5, she was named Terrea Lee.
“It was all because of those few hours in the Emergency Room,” said Wingate. “No one had helped me up to that point. But there was just something about the way Terrea talked with me. I felt like God had sent an angel to me. She had a glow to her before she even said a word.”
For Harper, the news was as surprising as it was heartwarming.
“I was just so honored, then I got a little tearful,” she said. “And the fact that she gave Terrea the middle name of Lee was even more amazing. I was named after my aunt, whose name was Terrea Ann Lee. She was killed in an automobile accident after leaving a bar when she was only 31 years old. She struggled with addiction and help like this was not available then. I am so grateful to be in a position of serving on the Warm Hand Off team.”
Terrea Lee Barnes weighed in at 6 pounds, 5 ounces, and was 18 inches long when she was born at 5:10 a.m. Jan. 5 at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis. Those stats were immediate, but it took two days for the name to become official.
“I had been thinking about it before she was born and had decided to give her the name, but I wanted to run it by Terrea,” Shamyria said. “But we played phone tag for two days before we could talk to each other.”
There had been a few phone conversations since the first meeting, but it was just from that initial encounter that Shamyria made her decision.
“Terrea was so caring and not judgmental in the least,” Shamyria said. “That’s why most people don’t want to get help because they think they are going to be judged. But she was willing to listen and was so kind and sweet.”
“Shamyria poured it all out to me,” Harper said. “We got her on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and she felt immediate relief. And I could tell that she was feeling a lot better about herself right away. But I take no credit for this, it was God. We could feel the presence and knew this was way bigger than ourselves.
“This may be the only chance that we get. Understanding addiction and the destruction that goes along with it is the key factor in reaching those that suffer.”
Shamyria was referred to the WISH center at St. Mary’s Hospital and received services that have helped her stay on the right track. Shamyria received continued MAT support, physical therapy to address her back pain, marriage counseling and much more.
For Meredith Parker, manager of clinical services for the AMH Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine, this case proves the worth of the Warm Hand Off Program.
“We are living the mission of Alton Memorial Hospital and of BJC, meeting each individual where they are at the time they are in need, and without judgement,” Parker said. “Terrea did a wonderful job, and Shamyria obviously is very grateful.”
Shamyria and her husband, Ralph Barnes, live in East St. Louis with their other children: Rome, 10, Ralph’s son; and their three others Janiah, 9, Elijah, 6, and Israel, 1.
“I’m just so grateful that Terrea came into my life,” Shamyria said.
And as a result, another Terrea did the same.
Pictured above: Terrea Harper, a peer recovery specialist at Alton Memorial Hospital, holds 1-month-old Terrea Lee Barnes while talking with Terrea Lee’s parents, Ralph Barnes and Shamyria Wingate of East St. Louis. The couple named their baby after Terrea, who works for the AMH Center for Behavioral Health and Addiction Medicine’s Warm Hand Off program, following an encouraging meeting in the AMH Emergency Department in October. In front of them are some gifts presented to the family by the hospital department.