Mum refuses to give up fight for daughter as she faces amputation over heroin abuse

"I have looked death in my child's face, I looked in her eyes and I saw death. I saw death and I was terrified - she was even more terrified"

Tracey Coulter outside Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital this week

Paula Mackin

Tracey Coulter is a woman on a mission.

Not only is she trying to save the life of her daughter, she is determined to help others who are in the same heartbreaking situation she is in.

Mental health and drug abuse has brought her daughter and her family to their knees.

Holding her head in despair outside Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital yesterday, the distraught mother-of-four revealed she saw death in her daughter Stephanie Coulter-McKeag's eyes.

And she vowed while she will fight for her own child she will, in future, fight for others.

Stephanie (24) underwent a medical procedure last Thursday to try to reverse the damage she has caused to her foot through injecting heroin. If it is not successful she faces limb amputation.

Tracey with Stephanie in hospital

"I have looked death in my child's face, I looked in her eyes and I saw death. I saw death and I was terrified - she was even more terrified. As a mother no one should see that and when I fix my daughter, I will help others in my situation," Tracey told the Sunday World.

"Mental health support in the country is disgraceful, I firmly believe if my child had got the support I have been begging for the past ten years she would not be where she is today. Addicted to heroin, other drugs over the years, and suicidal.

"My heart is broken like so many other parents in this country, mental health is a serious problem and it is not being dealt with and I am determined to take up the fight, not only for my child but for others."

Tracey says the lack of support for people like her daughter is staggering, while praising the work of nurses who are currently looking after her frail daughter.

"I have begged and begged for my child to be detained under the Mental Health Act and still they haven't listened. She has been detained on the capacity side because she doesn't have the capacity to look after herself because she is so ill, seriously ill.

"The nurses here have been fantastic since it was brought to their attention that she was a flight risk. She now has 24-hour, one-to-one care but even with that she has still tried to run away.

"She never got far because even if she tried her best she is just too ill and in too much pain to get anywhere."

Stephanie, who the Sunday World spoke to yesterday, says she is determined to beat her addiction and wants to end the nightmare she lives every day. She is now calm and on methadone to curb her cravings for both heroin and crack cocaine.

Tracey Coulter outside the Royal Hospital in Belfast

"I want to get better, I really do. I don't like being like this, I'm afraid. I am in pain and I know I need help, I really need help," she told the Sunday World at the hospital when we visited her at her request. Her mother has also hit out at internet trolls who have questioned her about going to the media to highlight her daughter's plight.

"I've had so many messages and emails of support which I have read out to my Stephanie when I'm by her bedside. They mean so much to both of us but it just highlights to me how many other people are in the same boat as me and don't know how to highlight what is happening to their loved ones.

"I've had other messages asking why I was taking my daughter's story to the press and I wouldn't even bother to respond because they don't deserve my time. But what I will say is that since I went public three weeks ago things have changed. The hospital and the mental health team started to listen.

"She is my child and I will do any-thing in my power to get the best for her. Going to the Sunday World with my daughter's permission was the best decision I made and not for the first time. I went to this paper years ago when she was addicted to legal highs and that resulted in us highlighting and shutting down the shops that were selling them.

"At one stage I was the most hated woman in Northern Ireland by the druggies who used them. I have fought before and I will again and I'm not just doing this for my child, I'm doing this for other people's children.

"I will campaign for better mental health services because, as I've said before, my child would not be a drug addict if she was afforded the right mental health support she has needed since she was a teenager," Tracey said.

From a young age Stephanie has struggled with the brutal murder of her granda Jackie Coulter and the death of her father.

"My child has had to and still struggles with the loss of the people she loved the most. She has mental health problems because of that and I have screamed to the highest hill for ten years to get her the help she needs. But as far as I am concerned she, like so many others, has been kicked to the kerb, ignored, forgotten about.

"My child has told people she has voices in her head telling her to do things, the mental health team know all about that, she has told them she wants to commit suicide, she as done runners out of facilities in the past yet still they won't section her."

Tracey has requested a meeting with Health Minister Robin Swann to discuss her daughter's case. He has yet to agree a face-to-face meeting.

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