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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

63 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 ».

    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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