Changing Sepsis Lenses: From Adversity to Advocacy

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

Guest Author: Hillary Beth Spangler
MD Candidate at UNC School of Medicine, Class of 2017

Hillary Beth Spangler
Hillary Beth Spangler
MD Candidate at UNC School of Medicine, Class of 2017

As a fourth year medical student at UNC School of Medicine, I’m humbled to be training at the university hospital that treated me for sepsis when I was 10 years old. I’ve had the privilege of seeing sepsis through various lenses: as a patient, a healthcare provider, and as a sepsis advocate.

It’s because of my unique experiences with sepsis that I strive to learn and practice medicine and hope to provide effective patient and family-centered sepsis education and interventions. My personal sepsis journey is mainly why I chose to pursue medicine, because it seemed like the best way to give thanks to those who helped save my life as a 6th grader. Through my various ‘sepsis lenses,’ I’ve observed a common theme: Urgency. For me, this urgency is obvious by my mother’s vivid memory of the pediatric ICU doctor running from the computer, to my room, and back to the computer during the first critical hours of my illness.

Individuals passionate about sepsis education, awareness, and treatment share this sense of urgency and continue to search and innovate for improved sepsis outcomes, as time is often the limiting factor in effective sepsis treatment. While at UNC School of Medicine, my research and teaching has focused on sepsis awareness in the outpatient setting and within the medical student population. I hope to prepare and provide the same sense of urgency within the healthcare community and my ‘future physician’ colleagues.

You could say that I’m still on my ‘sepsis journey,’ one that has come full circle. I was recently (and unknowingly) introduced to the ‘running pediatric ICU doctor’ mentioned earlier. I’m eternally grateful for the sense of urgency I was treated with over a decade ago, and hope my ‘sepsis lenses’ encourage others to continue innovating with united urgency for improved sepsis outcomes.

Acknowledgements: UNC Healthcare; UNC School of Medicine; Tina Willis, MD; Becky Smith, MD; Mark Piehl, MD, MPH|410 Medical; Helene and Jeff Zehnder; Thomas Heymann, Director of Sepsis Alliance

Hillary Spangler is a fourth year medical student at UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, NC, with plans to apply to Medicine-Pediatrics residency programs in fall 2016. At UNCSOM, she participates in quality improvement and education projects for improved sepsis outcomes. She completed her undergraduate Biology and Nutrition Science degrees at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, a time that inspired her interactive children’s book, “Where is Henry?”, and her business, spanglernest, LLC.

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

4 comments on “Changing Sepsis Lenses: From Adversity to Advocacy”

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    many of my coworkers ask why the different names like nosocomial infection, heath care associated infection and health care acquired infection are they not the same? If so then how did all three came about.

    I am glad you recovered and have been inspired to prevent other youth from being susceptible to this illness.

    I have had my own encounters with sepsis on several occasions with varied success.
    Following a horrific head on collision that caused internal injury I experienced ongoing infection that perplexed the physicians who were overseeing my care. I appealed to my primary care physician for help and after transferring hospitals was able to find a team of doctors who located the source and treated my infection. Now 27 years later I am forever grateful to their excellent care.

    My second encounter came with the loss of my younger brother to an infection no one suspected. He was a lifelong asthmatic and needed daily treatment. When he awoke early with breathing trouble he immediately sought his inhaler which was left in his car by mistake. On the way he collapsed and was found unconscious by a neighbor. He was rushed to the ER and evaluated. They presumed his breathing was the problem, then he went into cardiac arrest. They got him back and started tests for coronary problems. Finally 6 hours later they decided to do exploratory surgery to find the problem and 10 minutes into the procedure all his organs shut down. He had a bowel rupture which went undiagnosed and led to his death at age 47.

    My Mom died from an untreated UTI which blew up into a huge infection that she could not fight off.

    Please get the word out and keep fighting this under-recognized killer.

    Never realized how serious ‘sepsis’ could be until it happened to me. Just a small puncture would on the knee, 2 drops of blood, followed by 10 days in the hospital., a year to recover. Draining of the knee and finally a scope to clean things out. Knee replacements 10 years after. Twenty years have passed, and still going strong. Back then ‘Keflex’ and other drugs worked well, not so much any more. Thank God and the clinic …..

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Page last reviewed: October 26, 2016
Page last updated: October 26, 2016