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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

118 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 beautiful, sharp as a tack Mom survived sepsis this month but now has some serious dementia going on which I know in my heart is a direct result of the sepsis. My heart is broken… I know I have to get into acceptance but its difficult and painful.

    My mother became septic October 23. Was hospitalized for 2 months and now in a rehabilitation facility. What a roller coaster she and the family has gone through and still dealing with. I just don’t understand why the treatment for sepsis is still so lacking. Intensive nutritional theory and a fecal transplant should be studied to help support sepsis survivors. She has had stomach problems and on going blood in her stool. She’s still alive, thankfully but I’m just so scared this could still take her like so many other’s after hospitalization.

    I am watching my grandmother take her last few breaths as I type this, and she has a very similar story. She had a blood clot in her femoral artery surgically removed early September 2019. 2 weeks later she was fighting for her life due to septic shock. She beat it! She went to rehab and we thought that she won the battle. Then late November, she was back in the hospital due to infection and an aneurysm in the same spot. They didn’t want to operate until the infection cleared, but three days later, the aneurysm ruptured and she had emergency surgery to repair the artery. She made it thru the surgery but was never the same. Acute delirium cause her not to eat. A month later the incision started bleeding out and her heart stopped. 1 week later, after 2 strokes, no blood flow to her left leg, Gangrene took over, we weaned her off of life support and she is now dying. Just before the wound started to bleed out, I smelled something foul on her feet. I told the nurse, and she just washed her feet. I believe the infection was back, and even though they changed her wound dressing 3 times a week, no one noticed.

    The story saddens me I didn’t know anything about sepsis until, 12-14-19 when my mother unexpectedly pass away from it. My grandma was in the hospital for 3 weeks had a AAA and we visited everyday. On Friday 13th my mom didn’t come she said she had the runs. 24hrs later she passed away of sepsis shock. I’m so lost and confused to how this could have happened. It saddens me deeply and I want answers. RIP Mama

    Hello everyone. My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at the at the end of June 2019. She had surgery August 1st then started chemotherapy a month later. She did chemo for 3 months, going in and out of the hospital the whole time. 4 days before Halloween she went in to the hospital with severe pain, fever, confusion and a host of other problems. Halloween day she died of septic shock. Everything spiraled out of control, before we knew it she had slipped away. This has been the hardest thing on me and my family. My mother was our family’s matriarch. Septic shock is a terrible awful thing!! And very preventable! The hospital did nothing but help her die! I miss her so much everyday! Please watch for the signs and symptoms of this! No one should die of sepsis!

    My father died of Septic Shock last Sunday, December 8. I am so devastated and still do not know how to cope up losing the person I spent time with the longest time. I do not know how to go on through the remaining half of my life with only memories of him. I want his physical presence and longing to hear his voice again.

    I just lost my mother today from sepsis
    She fell down in bedroom and hit the floor. She did not know where she was and refuses to allow my father to pick her up.
    We had to call the EMS and some firemen picked her up on Thanksgiving morning. My mom cried in pain.
    The nurses did not seem to tell my father and I that mother had spesis. But I had looked it up on the hospital WIFi.
    My mother had been in the hospital for 4 days.
    On Sunday she finally got out of the hospital. But the paramedics dropped her on my porch.
    Last night my mother told me to take care of myself and tgat she was sick.
    We had some hospice nurses come by to take care of her.
    This morning my mother started having seizures and convulsions.
    She passed away while a nurse. was giving her a sponge bath and washing her hair.
    She had a long battle with fibromyalgia and lupus. It did not help she had two back surgeries. She also had diabetes and had work a spinal stimulator that was k in back nearly 5 years ago.
    It had been a long two years of battling
    my mother. She kept falling down at least 5 or 6 times this past Spring. It was stressful knowing she had fallen while I was at work.
    One time, she fell down on the weekend

    My husband died of Sepsis last month. He had a gash on his leg from bumping into a tree stump while cleaning brush from the backyard. The hospital gave him a tetanus shot and a bandaid and told him not to change the bsndage for a week. His health rapidly began declining. We made 4 more trips to the ER because my husband got so bad he couldn’t walk.
    He began to have trouble breathing. The final trip there he was taken by ambulance where he went into cardiac arrest. He was transported to another hospital 6 hours later. He died that same day. He was not given any antibiotics. Death certificate states that his cause of death was sepsis…which. Could hsve been prevented if the ER would have given him antibiotics in the first place. He had just turned 61 years old and we had falsely believed that we still had a future together. We trusted the medical doctors at the hospital to do the right thing, but they were so much in a hurry to rush people in and out of there that they dropped the ball bigtime and allowed a very vibrant lively patient to slip into death within. A .weeks time . I am sure that if it had been one of their own family members the proper treatment would have been given. WAKE UP Medical Community .

    My wonderful husband passed away on Halloween
    He developed septis three weeks earlier
    They gave him antibiotics and cleared up the infection he came home
    Was placed on hospice care four days later
    Hospice care is wonderful

    My mother wouldn’t allow herself to be bathed and refused any professional help. No amount of coaxing would get her to allow someone to touch her. She said she would clean herself. This went on for many months until she contracted a uti that turned into sepsis. She was secretive about her symptoms until her blood pressure dropped to 20. She passed 10 hours later. My brother and I have dealt with the guilt of being on watch when this all happened. We didn’t know the signs of sepsis. We also have PTSD but could we have prevented this?

    My mother passed away yesterday due to this awful flesh eating disease! Had the hospital she was in for almost 3 weeks paid attention & listened to all the doctors my mom would still be alive today!! I had to watch my mom literally suffer a awesome gruesome death which broke my ❤ in half:(Please I beg every family if you even have the slightest hint your loved 1 has it seek help immediately never take no for a answer!!)

    My mother is currently fighting for her life in the hospital right now. In October she had a major back surgery. After multiple attempts to go be seen from excruciating pain she was still in after surgery they kept brushing her away saying the pain is normal. Saturday 11/16 she passed out going to the bathroom and she has been fighting since in icu. They found a rather large abscess near her surgery site. She has not be able to wake up after being off of sedation for some time now and she is on a wound vac with a jp drain as well.

    I developed sepsis as a result of aspiration pneumonia, which I did not know I had. Thought it was a bad, long-lasting case of the flu. Became very tired, unable to eat or drink and slept all the time. Could bately speak. A friend told me to get to the hospital NOW. Another friend called 911. I flat-lined in the ER and spent 3 weeks in a coma. After finally coming to conciousness, I began physical rehab for 4 weeks. I still have physical problems with walking, balance & motor coordination. It took me over a year before I could take one step without assistance and a whole year to fully reclaim my mental acuity. I still have to use a walker.
    This all could have been avoided had I gone to the doctor after just one week of feeling bad. Now, my body will never be the same.

    May every mother be safe from sepsis, pain management and other diseases. It honestly sinks my heart knowing about your loss. May God gift her with the best place in heaven.

    I have had 4 hospitalizations for sepsis in the last seven months. I don’t have kidney or liver disease, any clotting disorders or cancer, so basically none of the big risk factors. Today I (finally) learned that sepsis causes immune suppression for years after infection, that the clock for recovering from the immune suppression resets every time sepsis recurs, and that the ED and ICU staff are expecting to continue to admit and treat me until sepsis wins, which statistically probably isn’t far off. It’s a very odd future to be looking at for myself.

    I just lost the greatest man a son could ever ask for. Even though we didn’t share the same blood. He raised me and was my father. I took him in to the ER one night for a swollen abdomen. the doctors found a mass causing a complete bowel obstruction. He needed emergency surgery to relive the pressure while they figured out what to do with the mass. The emergency surgery had to be held back hours because he was having a diabetic crisis. When he was ready for the surgery he was taken in but due to the electrolyte imbalance they had to be quick. The next day when he was more stable he was intervened for a second time to examine his bowel and asses the damage done by the stretching. Apparently his bowel had already torn and 80 percent of his colon had to be removed. And his entire abdominal cavity thoroughly cleaned. He was started on antibiotics and a few days later was on the route to recovery. A few days passed and the efforts to wean him off the ventilator started but kept failing. Suddenly his hands and Feet started to swell. Even though I made sure the nurse at the time knew she simply said “it’s probably cause he’s laying down”. But she couldn’t have been more wrong. Soon after things took a steep dive. His pressure required vasopressors, his kidneys started to shut down and he was getting constant blood work ups and cultures in an effort to find out what was going on. Never did any doctor come to us and say he has sepsis or his organs are shutting down due to infection. If it weren’t because I kept bothering nurses and asking. Was when one of them told me that he was septic and that they still had no idea where the infection was. My godfather was started on dialysis for kidney failure. According to doctors his liver had end-stage cirrhosis even though a month prior an er doctor told me his liver looked fine. But now his inability to maintain blood pressure without excessive amounts of vasopressors, CRRT, and a Ventilator after all the my godfather had gone through the doctors gave us absolutely no hope from the start. One doctor had the nerve to tell us”you either let him suffer or you let him die”. I stayed every single night at the hospital after that day the last day I saw him awake was a Saturday night. I came to his ICU room and was sent off because the doctors were doing an ultrasound of his heart. The next morning I went to see him and he was doing seizure like movements with his arms , head and and face. The doctors had no idea what was going on. After weeks of continuing treatment and the doctors constantly reminding us that our efforts and theirs were in vane. The doctors finally told us that the vasopressors he was on was cutting circulation to his extremities and that with the high doses he was getting that it wouldn’t be long before his hands and feet became necrotic and they suspected that the circulation to his Brain was very low and that was the cause for his “seizure” and no responsiveness. After doing some research and his continued non-response and constant jerking. We decided to let him rest before those vasopressors destroyed his body further. He left this world and left a huge empty space in all our hearts and people of his church. I’m never going to forget the day the man that raised me and took care of me stopped living. in the end sepsis knocked my godfather unconscious but the deadly vasopressors destroyed any hope of survival.

    We are experiencing this now. my dad is alive but apidly deckining…dame story. Can yiu suggest anthing to save him if you did it over?

    My mother died Oct 19th 2019. Sepsis leading quickly to septic shock we arrived at the er at 843 pm the 18th she was put immediately on a vent. Blood pressure would not come up when i walked in that night she looked me in the eyes. Trying to say some thing but could not she was restrained. She coded around 334 am brought her back. Dr told me as i sat alone with my last parent i had a decision to make either prolong her suffering or mine. Or let it end. I decided to take the vent out. She blew out never tried to breath. She is gone and i had no warning. Sepsis awareness needs to become a new movement across america. I sure do miss her PTSD is bad for the ones left behind. Turning that vent off ruined me forever.

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