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UT Medical Center Treats Dozens of Overdose Patients Every Day

KNOXVILLE — Beyond the pain and chaos of the emergency room, there’s one thing that keeps Dr. Anneliese Cuttle awake at night.

"The fact that I can’t get to them before they come to me," said Dr. Cuttle, an emergency room physician at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. "The hardest part of my job is telling the mother of a young person or the parent of a child that their wife or mother or son or daughter is dead and that they’re not coming back."

For many who overdose, the UT Medical Center is the first place they go in an effort to save their lives. As people continue to die every day, doctors are on the front lines in the critical moments that determine whether someone lives or dies.

Cuttle says the emergency room at UT Medical sees up to 20 to 25 people every day who have overdosed. That’s around 10 percent of their patients in the ER.

"We revive a lot more than don’t make it," said Dr. Cuttle. "Within the last six months, we’ve had several very young people who unfortunately we weren’t able to resuscitate."

What comes next is a battle to find them help so that they won’t end up here again. UT Medical offers patients guidance to help enter recovery.

"People come to us after they’ve already had a problem," said Dr. Cuttle. "So we can’t prevent it, but we can certainly help them and try to get them into treatment."

Even if they survived this time, some spend weeks in the hospital battling infections from the drugs and needles.

"Infections are a huge, huge part of the problem," said Dr. Cuttle. "When you inject drugs, there’s bacteria on the drugs, there’s bacteria on your skin, you push all that bacteria in and it can go anywhere. To the health, to the brain, to the lungs."

Dr. Cuttle says she has seen a marked increase in people who end up in the ER after an overdose who have been revived by family members or friends carrying Naloxone at home.

Every day the battle continues. Every day, Dr. Cuttle prays she won’t have to tell a family their loved one has died.

"If I could never do that again in my job I would be glad," she said.

© 2018 WBIR

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