The Power of Families in the Battle against Sepsis

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog
Rory Staunton
Rory Staunton

Guest Author: Orlaith Staunton
Do you know that it is possible to prevent sepsis by the simple act of providing antibiotics and fluids when it is suspected? We didn’t know this when our beautiful son Rory Staunton died at just 12 years of age when emergency room physicians and his pediatrician failed to recognize the symptoms of sepsis. Since his death we have worked tirelessly to raise awareness among physicians and healthcare workers as well to spread awareness among the general public about the signs and symptoms of sepsis.

Sepsis kills more Americans than AIDS, prostate cancer and breast cancer combined and it contributes to 1 in every 3 deaths in US hospitals, costing the U.S. economy $20 billion per year. Behind these staggering statistics are heartbroken parents and families who will continue their lives flying on half a wing.

My husband and I, as Co-Founders of the Rory Staunton Foundation, are honored to have met many families affected by sepsis over the past number of years. We have sat with them, cried with them, and stood hand in hand with them. Together as families our mission is to educate both the general public and our country’s decision-makers about the devastating impact of sepsis and how it can be combated. Sepsis is a killer hiding in plain sight that can be treated successfully if caught in time. If parents, doctors and members of the public are educated to look for it, it could make a profound difference to public health in America.

In New York State, the Rory Staunton Foundation worked with the State Health Commissioner and Governor Andrew Cuomo to pass Rory’s Regulations, a set of protocols that facilitate faster diagnosis and treatment of sepsis in hospitals. It is our fervent hope that all fifty states will adopt these regulations within the next five years.

On September 16th, in Washington D.C., families from across America affected by sepsis will stand with the Rory Staunton Foundation to launch a national sepsis awareness campaign and encourage all fifty states to adopt Rory’s Regulations. To join us in Washington or learn more about our work, visit

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

3 comments on “The Power of Families in the Battle against Sepsis”

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    May 12, 2016
    Hi, My husband had a prostate biopsy procedure last week, and 32 hours later ended up in ER with sepsis, due to the procedure he had. He was in the hospital for 6 days and is continuing IV antibiotics at home. He contracted sepsis because the antibiotic that he was given prior to the procedure did not cover his own particular body bacteria, which we all carry. He was given a general antibiotic which should cover most bacteria. From what I have learned this happens to 1 of 50 men who have the prostate biopsy procedure. I also understand that if a rectal swab for culture is done 3 days prior to the procedure to identify the individuals specific bacteria- this could be avoided. Why is this not offered as part of the procedure? Any feedback will be appreciated.
    Thank you, Cathy

    Thanks for your comment. It is very important that patients and their loved ones understand what sepsis is. CDC has created a series of fact sheets to help increase sepsis awareness among both the general public and healthcare professionals. These resources can be placed in patient waiting areas, emergency rooms, and anywhere that patients might view them:

    My heart goes out to the Staunton family. I worked at a major California children’s hospital for 35 years until recently and have seen many dozens (perhaps hundreds) of infants, young children, and adolescents with “sepsis”. The severe cases are simply devistating and heart wrenching to watch. Over the years new terms evolved, such as Pediatric ARDS and SIRS, and older terms such as Purpura Fulminans and Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome began to become frighteningly familiar to us. I watched skilled ER peditricians quickly recognize the early stages of sepsis and respond quickly with life saving measures. One of those patients was my 4 year old Granddaughter who had pneumococcal sepsis. She survived. I watched highly skilled Pediatric intensivists and Pediatric surgeons care for patients with life threatening sepsis, including an incredible PICU team of nurses, respiratory therapists, and clinical pharmacists. I have seen critically ill children with sepsis fighting for their life in the PICU, and I have witnessed autopsies on fatal cases of sepsis. I am so pleased that there is a movement to educate healthcare providers, parents, and the public about sepsis. Sometimes it is a mother or Grandmother who tells a doctor that “there is something terribly wrong with my child”. We should listen……….

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Page last reviewed: November 18, 2016
Page last updated: November 18, 2016