missouri bootheel

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

Lee Ann Stuart still wears her nursing scrubs, even though the only work she’s been doing since Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center closed June 11 is to pack boxes of medical supplies to be hauled away.

“It’s strange walking those halls, and they’re empty and the lights are down,” Stuart says. She’s been a nurse at the hospital in rural Kennett, Missouri, for 22 years.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Pubic Media

Taja Welton is ready for her daughter to be born. She’s moved into a bigger house, one with room for a nursery. She has a closet full of pink, Minnie Mouse-themed baby clothes. Her baby bag is packed right down to the outfit she plans to bring her baby home in that reads, “The Princess Has Arrived.”

“I can’t wait to put it on her,” Welton smiles. The princess even has a name: Macen.


One year ago, while reporting on infant mortality rates in Kennett, Missouri, I met a 27-year-old expectant mother named Marylouisa Cantu. She was pregnant with her seventh child.

Her sixth child, a daughter named Alyssa, was born two years earlier and had spent two weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit due to complications from premature birth.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

At Richard Logan’s pharmacy in Charleston, Missouri, prescription opioid painkillers are locked away in a cabinet. Missouri law requires pharmacies to keep schedule II controlled substances—drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl with a high addiction potential—locked up at all times.

Logan doesn’t stop at what the law requires.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

This story is part of the series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

It’s a cold afternoon in Kennett, Mo. The lawns in this low-income housing neighborhood are still wet from yesterday’s rain. And just inside the door of her mother’s brick home, 27-year-old Marylouisa Cantu sits on a couch, pregnant and draped in a blanket.

Her mother beckons, through the storm door.

“Come in, come in.”

 


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

This story is part of the series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

It’s early morning. The sun is shining brightly on the corrugated metal siding of the Otto Bean Medical Center in Kennett, Mo., and inside the building, Judith Haggard is pricking the soles of her patient’s feet with a pin.