What YOU Need to Know about Sepsis

You know, I live with two words: “If only,” every day. And they play a big role in my life because if only I had been more educated. If only I knew about sepsis, maybe my son would be alive today. In spite of having sepsis, and he had it at such a young age, my son is just as normal as any other kid. He’s riding his bike, or learning how to ride a bike, with training wheels, he■s playing basketball, he wants to get into T-ball — so those things that normal 4-year-old kids do, he can now do. Josh was very fit, he was healthy. He had done over 1000 jumps skydiving and he had become an instructor, so he was very healthy. On Labor Day Weekend of 2006, Josh was on his last jump. and there was a cold air density problem that pushed his chute inward and threw him to the ground at 60 miles an hour. Joshua jackknifed. He broke his left femur and his helmet produced a contusion on the back of his head. He was immediately taken to the emergency department and upon arrival his brain started to swell. Josh acquired not one, but two cases of MRSA, he battled and won those, and then he acquired what they call delirium or ICU psychosis. But he — he won it. He — he was — he was strong and he fought all of it. And then finally the doctors came to us one day after six weeks in ICU and they said, “Mom and Dad, it’s time to go home. Josh is doing well” Six days into rehab, we received what we called the phone call from hell, 11:30 at night from his neurosurgeon, saying that at rehab Josh spiked a fever of 103 and he coded. Steven is a special little boy, a really special kid. And I know every parent thinks that their child is “the most special” but Steven is really special because he had a liver transplant when he was two-months-old. One of things we learn as transplant parents is that we are kind of frequent flyers, if you will, for hospital visits. And it’s not a frequent flyer club you want to be a part of, but it’s also a club that makes you very aware of things. It’s just he and I, just the boys. We’re at home and things are going great. At first he was lethargic, he slept a lot, a lot more than he normally would sleep during the day. The other thing is that he was shivering and he had a fever, and then the fact that he was just throwing up and he was restless all through the night — those are the things that kind of tipped me off that that something was really, really awry and let me know that this might be sepsis. As a member of the Armed Forces we have this thing we say, “When you see something, say something.” It goes beyond just homeland security and national defense, it applies to your health care, “When you see something, say something.” Josh died of sepsis. My son survived sepsis, and I think because I took him in when I did, it was the biggest factor in him surviving Go to the emergency department. It’s the only place that they’re equipped to handle sepsis. We have documented cases now where a patient will come in through the emergency department and not say much except, “I feel feverish.” “Could be the flu.” And so the patient sits there and you know how busy emergency departments are. That person is not really dying at that moment that they walked in, and so it’s not a priority. They don’t have a gun shot. So 3, 4 hours go by and that’s how fast sepsis works That 3, 4 hours gone by, by the time that person gets seen, they’re now passing out and they’re now in septic shock, and they’re now dying. Learn the symptoms. Learn about sepsis today. Shivering, fever or very cold. Extreme pain or general discomfort. Pale or discolored skin. Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused. “I feel like I might die.” Short of breath. Even if you think you have the flu, if you have an infection, if you’re running a fever, you have any of the symptoms, say the words, “I suspect sepsis.” “I think this might be sepsis.” If the person suggests that it might be sepsis, that means they need to be seen right away. Sepsis is extremely treatable, but you have to catch it early. Call 911 immediately. Do not waste one single minute. And when you get there, say the words: “I suspect sepsis.”

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