What is Sepsis? Well, like most people who learn of sepsis, it’s usually at the ending of a love ones life. Luckily for me, I didn’t lose anyone. I came across an article, Fatal Inaction by Harriet Brown, that discussed a young woman’s experience losing her mother to sepsis. I was moved by how this flesh eating bacteria kills 20 to 60 percent of those who develop it. Mortality depends on how quickly victims are diagnosed and treated with powerful antibiotics to battle the bacteria racing through their systems.
Each year more than one million Americans develop sepsis, the infection — also known as septicemia or bacteremia — can be sudden, capricious and difficult to identify, masquerading as a minor injury or illness that erupts into full-blown, whole-body organ failure within hours or days.
Nearly two years ago Patricia Kirven’s daughter lost all four limbs to a dangerous bloodstream infection. She too wasn’t aware of sepsis. “You can ask the average person on the street and they don’t know what it is,” said Kirven. Her daughter Whitney Mitchell, now 20 lost her arms and legs. There’s a lawsuit accusing doctors at the Medical City Dallas Hospital of not giving her appropriate antibiotics for 38 hours after she showed up in the emergency room.
Whitney Mitchell’s is not the only high profile media case, a recent death of a 12-year-old New York boy, Rory Staunton, who developed severe septic shock two days after a minor gym class cut was also mistreated at the hospital.
Rory was given fluids at NYU Langone Medical Center and sent home, his parents said. The problem was, symptoms such as Rory’s could be caused by a variety of illnesses. But lab results that arrived hours after Rory left for home held one important clue, The New York Times reported — his white blood cell count was disturbingly high, indicating a significant infection. But his parents say nobody ever told them about that.
“Getting a quick answer is a matter of life and death,” said Preeti Pancholi, an assistant professor of pathology and director of clinical microbiology at The Ohio State University Medical Center.
That’s why her hospital recently joined with five others across the country to test a device approved in June by the federal Food and Drug Administration that experts believe could drastically change the way sepsis infections are detected and managed.
Here’s The Checklist!
7 WARNING SIGNS OF SEPSIS
If you or a loved one has an infection plus two or more of the symptoms below, tell your doctor you’re worried about SEPSIS.
- High fever (or abnormally low temperature), chills, and/or shaking
- Difficulty breathing, hyperventilation, shortness of breath
- Warm skin or rash
- Rapid heartbeat (over 90 beats per minute)
- Mental confusion
- Abnormal white blood count (usually high, but can be low)
- Unusually low blood pressure
For more information: http://www.sepsisalliance.org or http://www.sepsisforum.org
Whitney Mitchell’s full story: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/dallas/headlines/20120427-quadruple-amputee-files-lawsuit-against-doctors-medical-city.ece
FDA News Release: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm309950.htm
Septicemia in U.S. Hospitals, 2009: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb122.pdf
Harriet Brown is the author of Brave Girl Eating (William Morrow), a memoir of her daughter’s battle with anorexia.