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A Family’s Perspective – “The Brutality of Sepsis will Haunt Us for the Rest of Our Lives”

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog
Franchot Karl
Franchot Karl

Guest Author: Franchot Karl

Sepsis. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s one of the leading causes of death, particularly in hospitals, but most people have never heard of it. My sister and I had barely heard of it, until we lost our beloved mother because of it two years ago. The brutality of sepsis will haunt us for the rest of our lives.

When our grandmother died of sepsis at 84 years old, back in 1990, I assumed it was an old people’s disease. I thought you get old, go into a hospital or nursing home, get the inevitable hospital infection (sepsis) and die. After all, hospitals and nursing homes are crawling with germs, right?

Well fast forward to now, millions of deaths and many medical negligence cases later, the real truth is coming to light. I debate sepsis is an actual disease. Unlike heart disease, diabetes or cancer, sepsis is usually the result of something else, like a cut or scrape, surgeries or invasive devices. We are all at risk. Sepsis is a dire emergency that can kill the young or the old. It does not discriminate.

In early 2012, mama had a blood clot surgically removed from the femoral artery. She seemed to recover well, but the wound incision leaked nonstop. Soon she complained of extreme weakness, had sporadic fevers and could not urinate. It wasn’t long before she was fighting for her life in a city hospital. After one week of hospitalization, a large, grotesque abscess was found at the surgical site on her left groin. Incision and drainage was done; it was all that was done. At mama’s death on May 9, 2012, her left groin, lower left torso and thigh were eaten away. Her underlying flesh and muscle were exposed. It was a brutal death for such a beautiful person.

With all the touted advances in medicine, sepsis still seems to be shrouded in ignorance and neglect; yes, neglect. If there’s anything that my sister and I have taken from this devastating experience, it’s knowledge. If we knew then what we know now, I wouldn’t be writing this. Always identify someone who can accompany yourself or your loved one to act as an advocate. Ask questions, demand answers. If you don’t get them, seek other opinions. Learn the symptoms of sepsis. Flu-like symptoms, low grade or sporadic fevers, low body temperature, extreme lethargy, inability to urinate. Learn what tests can better indicate sepsis. CBC (complete blood count) with differential. It gives readings of white blood cell counts and red blood cell counts, platelets and hemoglobin. Learn the names of certain germs and terms that are linked to sepsis – VRE (Vancomycin- resistant Enterococcus), E. coli, pseudomonas aeruginosa, klebsiella, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and necrotizing fasciitis. Look to great resources, such as the Sepsis Alliance, read their stories of hope and survival, and when the internet becomes overwhelming, turn to a great book by Dr. Harlan R. Weinberg called Dr. Weinberg’s Best Health Resources on the Web. We don’t have to die of sepsis.

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

74 comments on “A Family’s Perspective – “The Brutality of Sepsis will Haunt Us for the Rest of Our Lives””

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    I just lost my uncle to sepsis according to the coroners report – still waiting on more specific details from the autopsy; however, I still can’t process or believe it. Friends report he was healthy days before. He was found in bed with a 12″ round pool of blood that leaked through comforters into mattress and there was significant blood in vomit on and around the bed.

    Can anyone explain the blood?! I hate to think and ask, but it seems like he was in a great deal of pain. Did he go into shock and therefore numb to what was happening to him? He was home – no ambulance or call to friends or myself.

    I have so many questions…

    My son passed away in October 2018 at the age of 28 from septic shock and heart failure. He started out asking me about a week before he ended up in the hospital if I saw anything on his neck. I thought I saw a pimple. It developed into two large boils, and four days later, we were in the emergency room, as he was very ill, fevered, and was ranting incoherently. He was transferred to Ruby Memorial Hospital at West Virginia University, where he was diagnosed with sepsis. He was put into induced paralysis because he needed a breathing tube. Through the course of 10 days, his lungs collapsed, he had several breathing tubes, he was being kept alive through having his blood pressure artificially supplemented, had a huge cocktail of antibiotics being pumped in, and much more. It was a horrifying ordeal, and he was dead 10 days after entering the hospital and about 16 days after asking me if I saw anything on his neck. So yes, sepsis happens, and it happens quickly to anyone of any age. It’s a horrible disease, kills far more people than anyone can imagine and once someone gets it, the prognosis is very, very bad. I wish someone could find a cure.

    My hearts and prayers go out to each and everyone of you that have had a family member die from sepsis. It is definitely a terrible infection that the doctors need to find a way to diagnose and cure quickly before it becomes life threatening. My Mom is going through the battle of her life as I am typing this. Please continue to pray.

    I developed black blood blisters after surgery. I asked dozens of times what it meant and what it was…and never got a straight answer. I fought it for 3 weeks with every possible side effect. My wound was rampant with an antibiotic resistance flesh destroying bacteria. It ate away at the wound and spread up and down my abodomin. I was near death when I was put in the ICU and it took the infectious disease Doctors 5 days to isolate the bacteria and develop an antibiotic cocktail for me. I survived. But a decade later I find myself still angry. It was easily preventable. I tried suing the Surgeon, but he had a great reputation and was on the Medical board in my state for Malpractice cases. He was a known advocate in courts nationwide to advocate for Doctors being sued. A professional testified. So Law firm after Law firm dropped me after hitting walls with him. I believe he paid at least one firm off.
    I had a stroke during the worst of the Septicemia. It was during the 104 plus fever days, after acute renal failure which led to Multi system organ failure. My adult children slept in my room in the ICU when they were told I had about a 12% chance of living through the night.
    The trauma never goes away for me. Even after the fever broke, there was weeks of being debreded by surgeons (removing the dead flesh everyday like they do to burn victims), dealing with no kidney function, becoming a diabetic during recovery *due to pancreas shutting down also. Imagine waking up to 5 insulin shot a day….and for the rest of my life. Home nursing care, to drain and bandage wounds, therapy to learn to function again and do simple tasks others take for granted. 8 months of physical therapy for my body and then adjusting to the fact that my brain would never be the same.
    I understand the title of the article all too well.
    I think I will die angry too. I was robbed of quality of life and the burden on my adult children was overwhelming.
    It was preventable.
    It was a tragedy.

    Six weeks ago my mom, who lived in skilled nursing at the time, developed a bad cough and chest condition one afternoon in mid January, 2019. The next day she was very sick and somewhat unresponsive. The nurses gave her cough syrup and some other flu medicines. She had a temperature and rapid heartbeat the next day so they sent her in an ambulance to the er. She was is the er for over 8 hours and I am not sure when she got medical attention. Later that evening she was admitted to the respiratory icu. The next day they told me she had aspiration pneumonia and sepsis. Two days later they moved her from icu to a regular room and she continued fluids, insulin, and antibiotics by iv. I had to decide to create a DNA for her. Two days later they said she should go under hospice care. She really never woke up except for a few brief times in the last 2 days at the hospital Nd then once while in hospice. It seemed like once she went to hospice their was already a decision made that she was going to die. She got worse for a week and her body began to shit down after being in hospice a week. 3 days later she died. I am wondering why I didn’t get more information from the doctors and nurses in the hospital. It was like no one wanted to be direct with me. I am also wondering if the first 2 days that she was sick if she had gone to the er sooner could the sepsis have been caught soon enough to keep her from dying.

    When an infant passes of sepsis or meningitis in their sleep can it cause their nose to bleed after passing? PLEASE PLEASE HELP! I NEED ANSWERS ???

    My mother went into the hospital, had stent placed, and went to rehab to gain strength back in her legs, so she could use her walker once she got home. She had a WBC count of 10, on Saturday 1/12/19. By Thursday, looking maybe a little pale, and nothing more than tired and complaining about a bed sore on her buttocks, I asked the nurses at the rehab in Lynbrook, NY to do a UTI check and check for dehydration. However, we had to rush her to the hospital in Oceanside, because she her eyes rolled back in her head and she was not herself. Her blood pressure was 80/40 and she looked terrible. Got her to ER and they told me she was in septic shock and was very very ill. Not sure what or how this happened…due to stent placement? did she pick it up in the rehab? She was dead after central lines were placed, and A lines searched for, and BIPAP masks, and you name it. Triple organ failure and dead by 1/23/19. Her WBC count was 28K and could not be reduced despite pressers and antibiotics….so very sad and I am so angry and upset….

    My mom passed away 2 weeks ago from ischemia bowel with sepsis. I stopped by her place on my way to work one morning to drop off some groceries items she had asked for the night before. I used my key to open her door. She was lying on the bed but she had already been up and was dressed. She had a broken ankle and was having to wear a boot night and day so I made her coffee before I left. I talked to her off and on throughout the day by phone. She told me that she had vomited the night before but she was feeling better and asked if I would stop by on my way home from work. About an hour before I was supposed to leave work, I got a phone call saying that my mom had called 911. The paramedics said all her vitals looked fine but she said her stomach hurt a little and she wanted to go to the hospital because something to feel right. The ER was only a five minute drive from her home. She was in the ER for almost 5 hours before they shipped her to the main hospital because they discovered she had a bowel blockage and said she would probably need surgery the next day. After arriving at the next hospital the new doctor looked at her and then checked on the scans preformed at the other hospital. He tells us that she needs emergency surgery because he can see gas (that I don’t learn until later is actually gangrene) around her intestines. It was still over 2 hours before they actually got her into surgery and it took another 2 hours to do the surgery. Afterwards the doctor said he had to remove 8 inches of her large intestine because of the dead tissue. He said she did fine during surgery and was in recovery and that he had done another scan after the surgery and it showed no gas. So he was positive they removed all the dead tissue. They said she woke after surgery and let them know she was in pain and she was cold, but I never got to see her awake again. First day after surgery all she did was sleep which they said was normal. On second evening after surgery she begins to run a low grade fever and isn’t putting out much urine and her blood pressure is staying low in spite of the medication to elevate it. On the third day my family is told that she is septic and there isn’t anything else they can do. She had been diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis few years earlier so her liver was to far gone to help her fight off the infection. My brothers and I had to make the hardest decision of our lives about her care. We turned her care over to the hospice staff inside the hospital so they could keep her comfortable and pain free. All of her tubes were removed at 8:20 pm that night. We sat and held her hands and talked to her throughout the night. She seemed to be just in a comfortable sleep, but at 7am the next morning, my 70 year old mom passed away peacefully. We were told later that some of the symptoms of sepsis are nauseous, diarrhea and abdominal pain. My mother already had all of the symptoms most of the time because of the medication she was on for the cirrhosis. So she never had a chance at recognizing the symptoms of sepsis until it was too late. I hope no other family ever has to go through what our family has endured, but with sepsis being hard to diagnose cause it mimics symptoms of other illnesses and until the hospitals have a way of being able to recognize the symptoms faster and get treatment started immediately, I know other people are going to be going to be following in the footsteps of our family. Remember that sepsis doesn’t discriminate by age. It happens to the young as well as the old.

    My mother Anita Sood passed away with Septic Shock on 19 Jan 2019, it was a turmoil to see her through in this pain. She has recurrent Urinary Tract Infection triggered by E Coli. Since December onwards it had become very frequent and she was showing signs of vomiting foam and diarrhoe , she was in out of the hospital 2 times. Last time when she got admitted even after 3 days of antibiotics she was nt keeping well and developed high AF which didnt get reversed. We then thought of shifting her to a better medical center, she cooped till we reached there but was in so much of pain. Soon after her BP became unrecorded and heart rate became very high. The same night she was sedated and put on ventilator and after bearing 3 more cardiac arrests she passed away. My point here is Awareness, that no infection should be considered lightly. Every kith and kin to know how to question and get relevant answers. This is the time of immense emotional stress but please dont panic.

    Kevin had back surgery in August 2017 – two weeks post surgery his VA doctor said he was doing well… 7 days later he didnt feel well but with pain meds for the back and surgery he said – some rest and ill be fine.. ive felt worse before… later that night after not being able to tell me the day of the week or where he lived etc i called the ambulance…. that was 9 pm friday evening.. Kevin passed away at 4 am Saturday morning- He coded 5 x…. fighting for his life- i knew he didnt know what was happening – I was told by his family that i didnt take care of him.. clean his wound.. well the sepsis occured well inside near disc 5-6 id never have known.. we didnt know.. it was too late…. i miss him everyday and pray that PEOPLE WILL LEARN .. that one its horrible to watch someone code – or vomit the infection etc….. and if nothing else.. dont wait for anything til tomorrow – its promised to none of us

    I am so sorry to you guys that have lost loved ones from this!

    My story: I tweeted a few days before hospital ( I was hospitalised from 21st of December 2018) that I felt I was going to die (I didn’t remember tweeting)! I had 5 out of the 6 of these symptoms!
    The doctor didn’t check me over and sent me home with antibiotics for a UTI! 2 days later I was dying in my bed at home, I physically could move any body parts as I was in so much pain. I had vomitted for 48hours, I couldn’t breath or talk, I could stand it walk, luckily my sister was home to Call an ambulance. The paramedics had me straight to hospital within a few moments! I was tested in ct and X-ray scans but they couldn’t see anything! They took me to surgery to have a close up look to discover I had organ failure and I was close to death by a few hours. I was put into an induced coma for a week. My family had been told To expect the worst and that the doctors didn’t think I would pull through it! Luckily I did, I’m a walking miracle 🙂

    I was discharged last week from hospital. Unfortunately due to the medication keeping me alive It has left me completely deaf. luckily i can still walk and have all my limbs! I am glad to be alive and on the road to recovery! And I’m now on the list for a cochlear implant! 🙂 since I’ve been out of hospital I have not stopped sharing and commenting sepsis awareness! I want everyone that I speak to now to know about all the symptoms and how quickly it’s affects if not treated early! Sepsis is a killer and more than people know of!

    My grandmother passed away 12/20/2018 of Septic Shock. She came in the hospital for a scheduled procedure to remove her gall bladder Amd was discharged the same day to go home. She complained of severe abdominal pain even with taking the prescribed painkillers. We called the surgeon office to explain about two hours after getting home from the procedure but they dismissed it as normal pain after the procedure. The discharge paper listed abnormal pain as a symptom to go back to the hospital. We called 911 soon after and she waited in the ER for a few hours before being admitted. The following morning I received a call from a nurse that my grandma wasn’t doing well and was vomiting. I got there about an hour after the call and spoke with the nurse. He said she would be transferred to the ICU for monitoring, about an hour or two in the ICU my grandmother was in a medical induced coma with life support for the next three days until she died

    I had late stage sepsis in 2006. The insult/infection occurred on a Sunday and by the following Friday I was incontinent of feces and urine, completely disoriented and in pain that had me writhing and screaming for 12 hours until given morphine. I was in the ICU completely sedated for 1 week, and then remained in the hospital for 4 weeks. I had endocarditis, blood clots, incredibly severe anemia, unbelievable muscle weakness, poor muscle control, chronic hiccups, and it literally took one year to return to normal. Not to mention the emotional toll of this near death experience on me. It want like ‘getting hit by a bus’, more like the bullet train. Today, due to an amazing team of doctors, I am alive, well and mostly healthy. I do have AFIB probably as result of the endocarditis.

    My son passed away dec.2/2018 he had a colostomy bag put on which the surgeon cut his upper and lower bowel which it was leaking into his stomach then the leaking caused him to have an emergency surgery again leaking again which cause severe septic shock the hospital and everyone knew that he had septic shock but they didn’t tell us as a family when we were there they just sent him on hospice told me six months and two days later he died please help make contact with me a mother needed justice !!!

    My sister went in for major surgery on her pancreas. She got through the 12 hour op, doc told us she was doing grand but she suffered a bleed & cought sepsis which unfortunately took her life very very suddenly. I feel the hospital is to blame. She was advised by her own doc this op would give her a better lifestyle. Now I have 4 nephews with no mother & the youngest being 9 years of age. Why …. surely someone has to answer to this

    My husband passed away from sepsis,decubitus ulcers, guillain barre syndrome, why no one can be held accountable

    my lovely sweet husband mike died of sepsis shock on july 24th 0f 2018…he was in mobile infirmary in mobile al…in ltac which isa skilled nursing facility within mobile infirmary….his 5th day in this section he complained of an earache …dr sutton said he would order some meds…w/o checking him…hours went by with no meds…i kept asking his nurse who came up with excuses…she told me the doc forgot and the np jones had to order them…i ket telling this nurse and the nurses station that something else besides the earache was going on with mike…he couldn’t breathe…he was hurting and had chills…no one would do anything…they woulnt call rapid response so i called…rr came mike wasnt breathing…he coded…they brought him back…took him to icu…vented him…he coded twice more and died…i made a complaint but she lied so i am investigating other ways to handle this

    I lost my mom 2 weeks ago due to septic shock and I don’t know if she would have lived
    had the doctors identified sepsis early on. She was in and out of hospital after undergoing TACE for a tumor in her liver, sporadic fever and difficulty in breathing..
    Yes, medical professionals should be trained in identifying sepsis as every second, minute and hour counts in treating this.

    Eight weeks ago, I was returning home from the gym. I had been feeling a bit under the weather for a few days, but true to my athletic nature, I just trained whenever I felt bad. Anyway, on the way home, I started feeling very ill and a bit disoriented. Once home, just when I got to the top step, before entering my condo, I collapsed, breaking my left wrist and spraining my right arm, , while taking, backwards, down the steps. The next thing I knew, I was in a hospital bed with multiple IV’s in my arms and chest (centralw line); AND it was three days later! The main thing, however, was that I was racked by the most unbelievably horrible pain, in every cubic centimeter of my body! I’m a pretty tough old former football player and thought I could withstand ANY sort of pain. Boy was I wrong. This pain brought me to my proverbial knees and had me crying like a baby. My daughter told me when they got me to the hospital, in the ambulance, that I was screaming, incoherently. It was to the point where, once in the ICU, they were feeding me Propofol to keep me sedated. On the third day, I was brought around.

    When I was brought out of my Propofol bliss, I was in agony. The doctor told me the I had contacted Sepsis, and it had gone systemic, invading my entire body. I was on IV antibiotics, Dilaudid and Methadone. With all that, in my system, I was still in agony! After a week, the doctors told me that the bacteria had attached itself to my artificial Mitral Valve, adding Endocarditis to a heart that is already very week and due to be transplanted, as a result of Dilated Cardiomyopathy. I was told that just the fact that I was still alive, was nothing short of a miracle but was, obviously, due to keeping myself in great athletic condition. That being said, I certainly DID NOT feel amazing. As I’ve said, the pain was unreal.

    Fast forward six weeks. I was transferred to a Long Term Assisted Care Hospital. By then, I had dropped a little over 30 pounds, all muscle. I had lost the ability to walk or do anything as simple as placing a Clothes Pin from one wire to another. I had a complete loss of motor control, as if I’d suffered a stroke. On top of all this, the pain was still unrelenting, to the point where they had me on IV Dilaudid, Methadone and Oxycontin ; and the pain was still severe!

    Present day… I’m now in my eighth week, since becoming ill. It’s been a very hard fight, but I actually took my first, unassisted, steps, this week and I’m now able to feed myself. Considering that you are reading the words of a Fitness Professional who has trained 100’s of individuals, as well as the owner of a very successful fitness consulting company and who, at 58, is in better shape than most 20 year olds; Sepsis has been extremely humbling. A few weeks ago, I was pumping out four sets of ten Pullups and squatting 500 pounds. Today, I am having difficulty opening a clothesline pin. Like I said, this has been extremely humbling. Still, there is the issue of the unrelenting pain. I’m VERY blessed to have pulled through this ordeal, but this pain is taking me to my wits end. I am told that I’ll be here, in LTAC ICU for about six more weeks, while they finish the course of Antibiotics. During that time, I vow to return to as close to my former condition as possible. The doctors said I will be on a walker then cane, for at least one year. I WILL prove them wrong!!!

    Meanwhile, it is now my mission, as a public personality, to educate as many as possible, to the horrors of Sepsis, and to avoid it at all costs.
    I wish this event on NO ONE!

    Best wishes to all you survivors and family members!

    My son died two weeks ago of septic shock, after being in the hospital for just 10 days. The week before, he’d asked me if I saw anything on his neck, and I said no. In a few days, a boil formed , and two days later, I took him to the Emergency Room, as he was feverish and ranting as if he was out of his mind. He was rushed from there to a major medical center, as they could not treat him in the smaller hospital, and from Oct. 2-12, ICU doctors tried everything to save his life. The last four days of his life, as septic shock set in, his lungs became full of infection and ripped open, meaning that no matter how they tried to keep him alive on a respirator, they could not and on Oct. 12, he passed away.
    He was only 28 years old, tall, handsome, intelligent and athletic.
    Please, if you see anything that looks unusual on your body, see your doctor right away. That boil on his neck turned out to be MRSA, and as the poison entered his bloodstream, it killed him.
    Sepsis and MRSA are not only a disease for older people. It attacks many children and young adults, and it kills them.
    Our life is completely turned upside down now, and it took less than two weeks for my son to go from a healthy, vibrant adult with much promise to being ashes in an urn on our bookshelf.

    My mom 82, has been in the hospital for 8 days. She’s been on pain meds and psych
    Meds for years. She was able to have conversations for the first few days but began to get real weak and was able to only wake up and slightly speak when we speak really loud and move her to alert her. Today she only opened her eyes once in hours , can’t speak and sleeps almost always. She came in with weak heart and blood clot in lung. She had mri and they say no stroke but symptoms look like she did. Please give some help if anyone has seen this with a loved one or patient.

    Im certain hospital killed my mother oct/09/2016. She had a heart attack but after having stents put in she was recovering. Than her kidneys &liver started failing though she nver had kidney or liver problems….she got sepsis and phemonia and just kept getting worse. She was in the hospital for 1 month before passing. Would love to sue the doctors and hve money donated to better care for patients but that will never happen because she was single and had no children under 25 years old. Stupid laws !!! I bet if it was their mama she would hve survived.

    My miracle mommy, Cristina Ann Treece Bailey is a walking talking medical after being diagnosed with a giant hole in her intestines the doctors patched up she got toxic shock and sepsis she came out of hospital doing alright but had a colostomy bag for months the recovery was long and dreadful for her and has a huge scare on her stomach I say she is a miracle because inspite of being sick and being told she would have serious side affects and loss of memory she has helped me so much including having to take over raising my three kids and get through the tough times in my life she is proof that it is possible to survive and carry on a normal life she stuggles day to day with certain things but nothing major she love with everything she has and no one has ever heard her story and until that day she walked out of hospital they had never seen anyone live from one of these disease let alone two and this women gives her all she is my Miracle mommy Cristina Ann Treece Bailey of stroud Oklahoma.

    My Mother died a year ago after being hospitalised 4 times in 1 year because of ‘ various infections ‘. During her last hospital stay she was treated with increasingly strong anti-biotics for the infections she kept picking up.

    Eventually she became too weak to fight infections and went into palliative care, lingering for 2 weeks before passing away.

    Not once was sepsis mentioned and the cause of death on her death certificate was stated as necrosis of the foot, this foot necrosis was never looked at as doctors treated her for the more ‘ normal ‘ infections like kidney, urinary etc.

    I am more convinced than ever that my Mother died of sepsis, which was either undetected or ignored.

    I would like to investigate this further but I’m not sure how to go about it.

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