HOUSTON -- Home isn't where most high school seniors want to spend homecoming weekend. Home is where Emily Bauer, a senior at Cy-Fair in Houston, Texas, will be.
Three years ago Emily's mom, Tonya Bauer, got a call from her daughter's then-boyfriend admitting they smoked synthetic marijuana. Bauer rushed home to a girl she didn't know.
"This sound that didn't even sound human, just screaming sounds, they had 5 constables holding her down to get her in the ambulance... I remember just standing by her dresser crying," Bauer remembers.
After five strokes doctors said seventy percent of Emily's brain tissue was dead and she would never recover. Doctors and parents turned off her life support, but Emily didn't die. Since then, she's had a long road to recovery, but Bauer says they're happy to have a road.
Emily says, "I can see but my brain doesn't understand what I'm seeing...I can't get a job, can't do anything. All I can be is an inspiration."
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Emily remembers buying the drugs for twenty dollars under the counter of a convenience store.
"I thought it was legal and safe. I got introduced to it as Legal, that was the name," she remembers.
"People don't know what they're getting into. These can cause acute psychosis, they can cause organ damage, if they think they're using this as a safe or legal alternative to marijuana, it's neither," says Toxicologist Doctor Spencer Greene. He says Ben Taub alone gets five or six cases a day. The formula changes so often, testing in an ER is tough, but it's become so common experts can tell you what to smell for.
"This is more acrid, more pungent... it's going to make you turn away in a way the smell of marijuana won't," Dr. Greene says.
"You should be able to idenitfy it as something off. It doesn't smell like cigarettes. It doesn't smell like marijuana. It smells stinky," says Lt. Josh Dove with Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office.
Not surprising. All it is, leaves sprayed with Chinese-made chemicals dissolved in acetone and packaged in homemade labs.
"We're seeing it more often now than when it was right in front of our face at the convenience stores," says Lt. Dove.
A new Texas law bans one-thousand chemicals widely used in synthetic marijuana getting rid of the urban legend that changing the formula somehow makes it legal.
Lt. Dove says, "They're still attempting to do that in the false hopes that it would allude them from prosecution."
It's not. Dove is busting users and sellers. County attorneys are trying to shut down stores that still sell it.
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan says, "The rhetoric is that this is safe. It's not safe. These materials are very very dangerous."
It's all too late for Emily. She'd be at homecoming instead of hanging up her mum, and the life she knew, for good.
"I wish I never made the choices that I did," she says.
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Teen shares story about how synthetic marijuana changed her life