Kyle Cook and Carla Saunders are neonatal nurse practitioners at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville.
They’ve spent decades caring for infants, but when the opioid crisis began to hit in 2010, their jobs changed in ways they never anticipated.
Tennessee has seen a sharp increase in babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition marked by tremors and constant shaking in babies who experience withdrawal. In fact, over the past decade, the incidence of babies born with NAS in the state has risen nearly ten-fold.
Kyle and Carla came to StoryCorps to remember when they began to notice how this affected their patients firsthand.
Over the past several years, Kyle and Carla helped establish one of the first treatment protocols for babies exposed to opioids, as well as a program connecting mothers with treatment and therapy.
Originally aired September 15, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
This interview was recorded at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, in partnership with Operation UNITE.