The recent tragic death of 12-year-old Rory Staunton has parents puzzled over a horrible blood poisoning known as sepsis.
Rory’s death started with a simple cut on his arm that he sustained while diving for a basketball at his school gym in late March. That evening he woke up vomiting and complaining of pain in his leg. The following morning, Rory awoke with a fever of 104 degrees. He went to his pediatrician, who recommended that Rory go to the emergency room. Rory’s mother took him that evening to the ER and was discharged two hours later, being diagnosed with the flu. The following day, Rory died of severe septic shock brought on by the infection.
Rory’s untimely death has parents wondering what sepsis is and what they can do to keep their child safe from this horrendous poisoning.
Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to an infection. It occurs when the body’s normal infection-defense mechanisms go into overdrive. This leads to widespread inflammation and blood clotting in tiny vessels throughout the body. Eventually, the cardiovascular system fails and blood pressure drops, depriving vital organs of an adequate supply of oxygenated blood. The facts are unsettling:
- Each year, severe sepsis affects 750,000 people in the United States alone.
- The rate of hospitalizations for sepsis more than doubled between 2000 and 2008.
- Sepsis accounts for 17% of hospital deaths.
- Infants are particularly susceptible to sepsis.
The best thing parents can do to ensure their child’s safety is to take basis preventative precautions:
- Ask your child’s caregiver if disease-preventing antibiotics are available.
- Have your child checked by his caregiver if he gets a lung, sinus or skin infection.
- Keep your child away from people with infections.
Also, parents should seek medical attention when their child exhibits symptoms of sepsis, which include:
- Very low blood pressure.
- Fast or troubled breathing.
Severe sepsis can have devastating consequences. The bottom line is that you, the parents, are the best arbiters of what is normal when it comes to your child. If your child looks sicker than you would normally expect from a cold or flu, then you should contact your pediatrician immediately.