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.

Franchot, a writer of primarily fiction, put all of his work on hold when his mother became ill, at the time of a strange illness. When she passed in 2012 of sepsis, he began a grueling work on his first non fiction offering, chronicling the last brutal months of her life in a soon to be released work, yet untitled. When not writing, he works in property management. He’s a native of Chicago, currently living in Boston.

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

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

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    My husband of 26 years is here in the hospital after 10 radiation treatments and one chemo treatment. The oncologist practitioner spent time on chemo education but no one shared signs to look out for sepsis. On Saturday after Labor Day chemo infusion, my husband had chills, extremely cold, low temperatures, and extremely wiped out. I (his wife) was guessing it’s from chemo. No, it was beginning of Sepsis, by 4 days later, we are in the ER. The oncologist practice knows he has <.2 white blood cell count, and their answer is take him to ER where you can wait for hours with sick people. If his sister had not threatened them to get his status elevated to see a DR, he probably would have passed that night. He is still in hospital fighting, gram negative bacteria in stomach. Just don’t know if he will beat it. Medical field, especially onocology, needs to be more proactive about talking to caregivers and patients. Too much is done outpatient and caregivers are left uncertain and feeling guilty for not realizing it’s Sepsis, not chemo side effects.

    My 55 year old brother died of sepsis. He had been doing dialysis 3 times a week on the one kidney he had left after losing the other to a car accident t when he was 20. He was doing great and was very active hiking and biking. He thought he pulled a muscle in his back and was treated for pain at ER and sent home. The next day we couldn’t get him to answer door and heard and saw him swaying and moaning. Police broke him and he went by ambulance and then was airlifted to a larger hospital. He was put on a ventilator and treated with 5 antibiotics so we they said he might pull out. He didn’t. He had a heart attack and 2 strokes the following day and we had to make a decision to let him go. It was horrible. The doctors believe the sepsis broke off a piece of his heart and went to his brain and caused the strokes. He would have been paralyzed and blind if he did pull through but that was a big if. I’ll miss my baby brother every day. It happens so fast God bless

    My husband has septics and has been in ICU for 5 weeks and 7 surgeries to drain the abscesses. Wondering when this nightmare will be over.

    Wasp sting to my foot on a Saturday afternoon-one Labor Day Weekend. I’m not allergic to wasps. I got sick- tired, diarrhea, nausea, fever (started with extraordinary cold), pretty much “out of it”-I’d look up, see my husband standing there. Dehydration and I wasn’t even aware of it. I couldn’t speak- I couldn’t get words out to say how I felt til Tuesday about 2 am finally I said “I’m not getting better”. My husband took me to the hospital with racing heart (110) and blood pressure 60/30. I’m fully recovered and grateful.

    Our 31 year old son died of septic shock directly after being hospitalized for Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to see him or manage his care except for bits and pieces he was telling us. We had no idea his condition was so dire. Within 36 hours he went from talking and texting to him being non-responsive on life support. We must cling to Romans 8:28 that tells us, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord…” His long term outlook was poor and he is no longer suffering. So hard for his wife and child, though. If you are in our situation Please let go of any guilt you may be placing on yourself. This is a stealthy killer and it is not your fault.

    Be proactive and if you are alone alert someone close about your symptoms and suspicions of something definitely not right. Time is of the essence and I speak from experience.

    My mum went to hospital 5th Dec 2016..sepsis.organs shut down.life support on 7th Dec.got through it but kept going up & down.start of Feb 2017 doctors sent her home to be told a week later (bone marrow was clear) to go back to hospital immediately to be told the bone marrow results were wrong & still had severe sepsis which gave her myeloid lukemia.couldnt eat.her weight dropped from 12st to 5 stone in 19wks in hospital & died 3rd April 2017….it was a horrific sight to see your mother turn to a shell.i asked for her hospital records & they made me so cross.dates & years wernt even right on the charts & a doctor refused to give her a medina that might have helped her because it was too expensive & she was gonna die anyway.despite everytime I spoke to consultant he was happy with her progress.dad died 8mth later from a broken heart

    My sister succumbed to sepsis on July 30, 2020. She had had surgery, came through well enough, was sent to a rehab facility, and FaceTime’d me one evening to tell me she believed her hands were becoming gangrenous. I immediately called the rehab facility and demanded they call an ambulance to take her to the hospital. It took a while but finally they agreed to take her. She passed 2.5 days later.
    The frustration for me has been wondering could this have been prevented, why did no one, either at the hospital or in the rehab, see that this was happening? It did not happen overnight. And I was unable to advocate for her since I (like all families) was not allowed into the hospital or rehab.
    I am afraid I will always wonder – could it have been caught earlier? could she have survived?

    My father died of septic shock March 9th, 1993. He was only 49, and developed cellulitis in his left leg. Sepsis does not discriminate, and people who are ill with sepsis can begin to have confusion early in the sepsis process, which may inhibit their decision making. It was the most awful thing to witness, nothing can describe the agony that we went through with him. I hate to say this, but it was of some relief when he passed away because if he had survived, he never would have been the same, and my father was very well educated, in the medical field. I still agonize about it. I miss him every day. Treatments are far advanced from the time of my father’s death, but there is still such a high mortality rate associated with septic shock. Traumatic for all involved. Love you and miss you, dad.

    My dad is battling with sepsis in hospital. It’s six days now. I pray God heals him because he’s literally my everything.

    My mother passed on May 4th to sepsis. She was fine one day and the next in excruciating pain. Turns out a small cut she got on her knee when she fell got infected and that was enough to get it. The hardest part is how quickly it all happened. And how unexpected it all was.

    6 years ago I was feeling bad like I had the flu. I went to my primary care doctor and he called an ambulance. 24 hours later I was in a coma that lasted 7 weeks during that time I developed ARDS a complication from sepsis. My blood pressure bottomed out and I was starved of Oxygen due to my lungs full of fluid. By some miracle I survived with serious damage to my body. I spent two years in speech therapy and occupational rehab. I was an engineer I went back to college at 46 graduated last year. I had to relearn most everything. Sepsis took my life and hit the reset button. I have huge memory gaps that have never came back sometimes I look at vacation pictures and I feel like I was photoshopped in. I had never heard of sepsis prior to this.


    My uncle has Sepsis and double pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital on Friday. It started with a fever and chills but it got worse. Now he’s on meds and still in the hospital but Sepsis is a scary thing and could kill someone if they don’t go to the er right away.

    My 51 year old brother had 2 pins put in his hips over a year ago . He is over weight and is a heavy drinker. His roommate insisted on taking him out of rehab 3 months early. He was still unable to walk. So for the next year he spent his days and nights on a recliner. Would not shower and went to the bathroom in his pants and she would clean him up. We called yhe the police for neglect but when they would come out my brother would say he’s fine.Well a couple months later which was May 1 2020 he had ber sores on his butt and thighs. He was having trouble breathing and his legs were filled with fluid.Hes now in the icu and not doing to good he has Sepsis and now is on 24 hour dialysis and his blood pressure is very low. He had a ventilator and a feeding tube but they just took them out. Please pray for him. Thank you

    I had sepsis in Aug. ., and spent a month and a half in the hosp and the nxt mo in a rehab nursing home type facility. So 3 mo before i came home. I was in rehab then covid19 came and TP shutdown . I was doing good , but have now regressed. I get awefully fatigued I’m short of breath and sore. I never heard of the word “sepsis” before, and i didn’t know the signs.My symptoms hit fast i was in my car i pulled into my driveway opened the dr got out, and remember ever so slightly that i was staggering.I made it into the huose and into my room. Moments later i was yelling for my wife to take me to the hospital . She took me to Beaumont they sent me home they didn’t recognize the symtoms.My wife drove me that day. Ten hours later i was yelling for her again i said i gotta go to the hospital i was in pain and scared. I told her to call an ambulance this time. They took me to the hospital.Well they kept me and thanks to them they saved my life. My organs were failing i had an abcess in my spine i was in bad enough shape they asked my wife if she would want them to bring me back if i should pass. She said yes, but thank s to an aware medical staff i made it through. The thing is i have a long recovery waiting me at least a year. So this needs to be put out there so people know,and ER’s are trained to recognize symptoms.I’m luck to be here

    Well i have read quite a few of these posts and certainly found one to be particularly familiar. It was the clot in the left groin that got my attention. First of all let me say i have been MRSA Sepsis sick 3 times and some how survived! My most recent MRSA infection was in 2016 59 years old and aprox 10 years removed from a Surgery to fix my left tibia, fibia , and fibula which i am not sure how it occured. The Ambulance report was a vague assumption that it was hit and run. I however was on foot at a gas station . So , getting to the point of this incident by having had such great luck in medical mysteries i developed a DVT in my lower left foot after the ankle fusion. 10 years later i am feeling hot , sweating , headache and developed soft tissue necrosis in my left foot which at first was wet and red .3 smaller toes and outside of my heel. My nurse friend came over and freaked out saying i was in big trouble if i don’t go now to hospital. Well that clot broke loose and was trapped in scar tissue on my left side groin . My Femoral Artery was blocked leg very swollen and that’s what was causing the problems. I had contacted MRSA back when i was being hospitalized many times over the years prior to the ankle and after. The scar tissue was in my groin area because i was a practicing inter venous drug abuser for many years although not for a few years prior to this particular incident. I am not grateful to have been this crazy addict although i believe this scar saved my life. I live in North Bay Calif. and the hospitals here didn’t have the means to save me. I was raced down to the hospital. 4 surgeries and 3 months later i was going home. I do not wish to try my luck at another fight and have surrendered with a new found gratitude!

    The question is How can a rip occur in a hospitalized patient to the point that within 2 days she was dead? No surgery. Free air and a rip in her bowel which put her into sepsis shock. How can this be determined to be a natural cause of death because she caught pneumonia AFTER being intubated. Grieving, disturbed and confused.

    Hi, I lost my wife, the love of my life to sepsis on Feb 24th 2020. She had been fine two days before except for coughing something up which I thought was food-related but with hindsight I know now was a sign something was not right. The day before, she was just sleeping a lot until the afternoon when I and the carers saw her temperature was up. I gave her paracetamol and it came down temporarily. She did have some of the symptoms I know now point to sepsis (rapid breathing, temperature fluctuation, pale skin) and even though she had MS and epilepsy, the sepsis symptoms didn’t spark a seizure. I called emergency services later in the evening, and feel guilt because clearly I should have called them in the afternoon. When they came, they instantly said ‘possible SEPSIS’ .. I didn’t know even what it was and had to google it when we reached hospital. My wife had developed a cut on her right thigh and despite district nurses treating it every 2-3 days for over a week, it must have got infected & that was how the sepsis got in. Why couldn’t anyone say, your wife has a cut/abrasion, keep an eye out for warning signs of sepsis. Then I would have googled it and known what to look out for. No one said a thing. My wife of 22 years, went into hospital on the Sunday and died the following evening at 8.40 pm, and I had been her carer and nursed her for 15 years helping her with numerous chest infections, bouts of pneumonia, seizures .. and am left feeling guilty that I didn’t act fast enough against a stealth killer that I didn’t know the symptoms of at the time but I know only too well now .. it was so sudden but at least my wife fell away gently and died peacefully in the comfort of myself and family and friends but that doesn’t take away the pain and the huge loss that I’m feeling now.

    My mother passed away 29th august from sepsis shock her kidneys stop working she could not breath all from aspiration pneumonia she got a sore throat 3 days before she went to hospital on the night she went to hospital she had flu like systems rang the ambulance they took her to hospital 2 days later she was put in a unconscious state and died 3 days later we just fort she had a sore throat

    Hubby came down with flu type a on tuesday. Called ambulance on thursday. Is in the ice still on a ventilator. Heart is infected, brain is infected, kidneys are sitting down. They will begin dialysis today. Embolic strokes. My husband is 50 years old, in perfect shape/health. Please pray for Joe.

    My mom was scheduled for surgery and the day before she couldn’t urinate and had pain on her left arm. We told the doctors she seemed sick but they said it was because she needed this surgery for her leaky heart valve . To this day I feel bad for not insisting for them to admit her to check her out first but they kept saying it was because she needed surgery. She only survived two days and had become sepsis and ended up on life support after her surgery everything that could go wrong did. I want to share my story because I live with this guilt now not being more aggressive to check my mom. Please insist to admit your love one before any surgery or any guessing games. Make them check your love one for any symptoms they are complaining about. Yes because she was 79 they used the excuse that she just was not strong enough for this surgery because of her age. I feel she should had never had this surgery knowing she was having issues urinating .

    I lost my beautiful youngest sister to sepsis last week, she was a nurse who had spent her working life caring for sick people. She though she had a vomiting bug, we talked to her the night before and she said she though she was getting better. We couldn’t make contact with her the next day, had no keys to her house and had to get the police to break in and they found her dead. She would have been 60 on 22nd of this, we were planning a celebration for her now we’re planning her funeral, all our family are numb with shock.

    I had Sepsis and was in the hospital for eleven days. I survived it. I don’t know how I just know it was out of my hands.

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Page last reviewed: February 24, 2021
Page last updated: February 24, 2021