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Surviving Sepsis: Rory's Story

  • Category: Blog
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  • Written By: King's Daughters Health
Surviving Sepsis: Rory's Story

In March 2012, Rory, age 12, dove for a basketball at his private school in Queens and cut his arm.

He awoke the next day vomiting, feverish and with pain in his leg. Through the day, he got sicker. That evening, he threw up on his pediatrician, who sent him to the emergency room at New York University's Langone Medical Center, where he was given anti-nausea drugs, Tylenol and IV fluids. His blood was drawn for tests.

That was a Thursday night. Rory was back in the hospital Friday evening, his organs failing. Only then did anyone pay attention to the blood test results from the previous night, which showed extraordinarily high levels of white blood cells, signs that his body was then in an escalating fight against infection.

By Sunday, Rory was dead of severe septic shock. After a campaign by Rory’s parents, Orlaith and Ciaran Staunton, the state of New York ordered hospitals to quickly identify signs of sepsis and begin treatment before the process gathered irreversible, lethal force.

In sepsis, the body’s own immune response turns into a tornado of self-destruction that picks up speed. The earlier it is spotted, the better chance a patient has of surviving. It is the leading cause of death in hospitals, and kills more people in the U.S. than AIDS, prostate cancer and breast cancer combined, according to the New York State Health Department.

One difficulty in treating sepsis is that the earliest signs — fever, rapid heartbeat, confusion — look like many other ailments. By the time people get help, they may have been sick for hours. That makes quick response essential, in the same way that rapid response to heart attack or stroke is essential.

To read more about the Rory Staunton Foundation and sepsis, follow the link.

Who can get sepsis?

Sepsis does not discriminate. It affects young and old, rich and poor, sick and healthy. Anyone can get sepsis at any time as a bad outcome from an infection. Those at higher risk of developing sepsis include:

  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Babies and very young children
  • Elderly people
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, and kidney or liver disease
  • People suffering from a burn or wound
  • People who have invasive devices, such as intravenous catheters or breathing tubes
What are the symptoms of sepsis? Sepsis presents itself as a combination of symptoms, rather than a single sign. If two of the following signs are present, seek immediate medical assistance.
  • A fever above 101ºF or a temperature below 96.8ºF
  • Heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute
  • Breathing rate higher than 20 breaths per minute
  • Probable or confirmed infection