Sepsis strikes more than a million Americans every year. Recent numbers say that between 28 and 50% of people who get sepsis will not survive it. That's far more deaths in the United States than from breast cancer, stroke, and auto accidents combined. Sepsis can strike anyone at anytime and according to the Centers for Disease Control only 55% of Americans know what sepsis is and has launched a new campaign to try and raise awareness.
Lisa Bartlett learned about sepsis first hand in 2012 in the worst possible way when it struck her husband Jeff. Lisa says, "My 40 year old husband was put in the hospital on October 19th, 2012. He was there for about 7 hours before they realized he was in septic shock, they thought he had the flu. We had little babies, 3 and 9 months old and he had two stepdaughters from a previous marriage. Within 23 hours I went from being a happy woman, perfect family, job, marriage, everything and then I was turned into a 35 year old widow with 4 kids."
The sudden loss of Jeff was a crippling blow to Lisa. “It knocked me down for about a year, I was depressed for the first time in my life. I had never been depressed before, I was always a happy person. It made me rethink my whole life, money doesn't matter anymore, people matter, it's the whole life perspective that changes. You basically have to pick the pieces back up and go on."
Lisa has since remarried, and is now a proud Army wife. She continues to do all she can to raise awareness about sepsis. Lisa makes it a point to answer questions about the loss of husband to sepsis. “I tell them it's the body's response to infection and it goes into overdrive and your body starts inflaming and without antibiotics it will shut your organs down and cause death. It can start from any kind of infection, abscess tooth, a simple scrape or cut on the arm, a dog bite, pneumonia, urinary tract infections are one of the top causes of sepsis. I wear my sepsis awareness shirts everywhere I go, and people stop me and ask and just simple things like that can save people's lives."
Those at most risk of sepsis are:
The very young
People with a weakened immune system
People with a chronic disease
People with a severe burn, or wound
Sepsis can be tricky to recognize in the early stages. Kary Pryzmus is a registered nurse and the Sepsis Coordinator at UCHealth Memorial in Colorado Springs. Kary says, “Sepsis is gray in general, there is not a real tell tale sign that sticks out. It can come on very subtle we want early recognition of it so we can treat it, just like we do stroke or heart attack.”
The CDC breaks down the warning signs with an acronym of SEPSIS.
S - Shivering, fever or very cold
E - Extreme pain or general discomfort, as in the "worst ever"
P - Pale or discolored skin
S - Sleepy, or difficulty waking up or a state of confusion
I - "I might die" feeling
S - Shortness of breath.
Przymus also says, another thing to be on the lookout for is if you have been to the doctor for treatment, and you're just not getting better. “Especially someone who has been to the doctor, they may have been at home, or have been on antibiotics. Normally a patient on antibiotics will start feeling better in 2 or 3 days. If they are not, and they start running a fever, or start getting more tired and can't get out of bed, those are all signs the patient is getting worse and they need to go back to the doctor. Part of early recognition of sepsis is early treatment to save lives, so we want to get started on treatment right away."
This year Lisa was recognized by the Sepsis Alliance as one of their hero's of the year for her work in raising awareness. She was flown to Washington D.C. for a gala where she spoke and shared her story.
Lisa says, "I had multiple people come up including doctors and nurses who told me I did a great job and that I personalized sepsis for them. A lot of people get up there and just talk about the medical side of (sepsis) it. I wanted them to know what it's like to be so affected by sepsis and how your whole life changes."
Since 2013, Lisa has held an annual 5k in memory of her late husband Jeff and to raise money and awareness of Sepsis. She's raised over $10,000 dollars so far and is already planning the next 5k in Colorado Springs this summer. We'll keep you posted on the details.