Karen McEvoy died as a result of “multiorgan failure with septicemia” a coroner in Ireland reported. Karen had given birth to a baby girl on December 18th, her third baby. She visited a primary care clinic on December 21st because she was experiencing flu-like symptoms, severe back and pelvic pain, and sweats, she visited a hospital on December 23rd. On Christmas Day, she died. At no point did anyone ask: Could this be sepsis?
Sepsis is a leading cause of maternal death. Maternal sepsis usually occurs due to a severe bacterial infection of the uterus during pregnancy or immediately after childbirth. Though more common in developing countries, maternal sepsis is also prominent in developed countries, including the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maternal sepsis causes 12.7% of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States. Despite being highly preventable, maternal sepsis continues to be a major cause of death and morbidity for pregnant or recently pregnant women.
It’s a parent’s nightmare – your child is very sick but even if you’ve been to see the doctor or been to the hospital with them, they don’t seem to be getting better, and now that you know about sepsis you wonder if it is the flu or if it is sepsis…
Sepsis or Flu? How to Tell the Difference
In its early stages, sepsis can look a lot like a common flu – tiredness, achy muscles, fever, generally feeling really weak; these symptoms are shared by both conditions in the early stages of flu and sepsis.
But as sepsis develops, there are increasingly clear signs that something else is happening in the body: Shortness of breath, feeling like your heart is racing, cold hands and feet, extreme shivering, passing no urine, slurred speech. Your loved one’s skin might become mottled with blue marks and very pale, your child has never felt so bad. All of these or even a combination of these signs are clear indications of sepsis and mean that you should seek medical attention urgently. Tell your nurse or doctor that you are concerned about sepsis. Do not delay, as every hour is critical to survival and antibiotics and fluids must be administered immediately.
Remember, too…you can help prevent sepsis by ensuring that you and your loved ones are up to date on your vaccines – including the annual flu vaccine and as always stop the spread of infection by washing your hands!
Christmas is a raw lonely time when you bury a child. Awake early this morning working on Rory’s book I found this treasure my brother wrote a year after Rory died. Always missing you Rory…
“A memory of a boy and a Christmas past casts a long shadow.
In the beginning of that day around 2005 in the Christmas time, I remember we arrived at their house in Queens to help with the tree trimming and enjoy the compliments of the season.
It was cold outside and hot coffee and an Irish breakfast helped line our stomachs and prep us for the task on hand.
The little red-headed boy had spread his train tracks all around the tree.
Bobbing and weaving the tracks ran in and out, and a vintage old train steamed along whenever it didn’t come off the rails.
The boy was already adept at fixing every little wobble on his track and explained excitedly that the train had been modeled on one from the old Indian railways. He explained in precise detail that India had an amazing rail system that he had been studying.
We took it all in as uncles and aunts and cousins do, would have stroked our beards if we had them and concluded what a clever little lad.
The tree itself was bare but as soon as we began to dress it the Christmas lights sparkled and the ornaments, many from our childhood that my sister saved, went up one by one.
Decorating the tree was like meeting a familiar friend a year later, reminding me of the bond that Christmas brought especially to emigrant families, transferring us across an ocean back to a time and place where seven of us children dressed a tree and our parents stood by.
Here we were in Queens, New York, in the same ritual timeless as it was, knowing that bond that connected us for generations was renewed again by this very act.
My parents had touched these same Christmas ornaments now our kids were touching them. The great stream of life continued to flow.
Back then the box holding the tree was full of old shoes to make sure the tree stood up straight as there was only a bare bark with no stand to secure it.
It was the boy’s turn to place the angel on top of the tree and he did so as I and his father lifted him up remarking how heavy he had become from the previous year.
After that, the bedraggled uncle was pulled aside by the boy to discuss the North Star and the positioning that Santa would use.
He indicated that the light from the star was hundreds maybe thousands of years old and that we only saw it as it was back then. How could Santa navigate with such uncertain lodestars, he asked me.
I had no clue but there was no escaping his keen intelligence, his eyes boring into me as the questions flowed about time travel and how Santa could make Australia and Europe in one 24 hour period. This conversation was about four years too early, I thought.
I knew enough to say nothing merely to point out that Santa was capable of all things, and that I would not be surprised at all if he had a special magic to do all that.
The boy sat down with an extremely dubious look on his face and I escaped to gulp my first glass of red wine, welcome after the endeavors, physical and mental.
The boy was special; there was no doubting it. What he would become is impossible to say.
Your child or nephew or niece is your ambassador to the future the person who will bear the memory of you when all have forgotten and carry it on to the next generation.
That is incredibly important for us humans incapable of time travel that someone is there to tell the future generation who and what we were, that we walked the earth, dressed Christmas trees and loved each other.
The boy would never get to carry that information or fulfill his incredible promise. He was dead a few years later killed in a case of dreadful medical malpractice that made it to page one of the New York Times for all the wrong reasons.
That house in Queens will be dark this year, no tree trimming. The family will instead be in Ireland to be near to where he was laid to rest with his beloved grandmother and grandfather, It is the toughest time of year next to his birthday.
Our Christmas now? It is never the same, and we do our best for those left behind and ourselves. But that shining North Star has dimmed forever in my mind.
Rory Staunton, wherever you are, we miss you and love you this Christmas and forever.”
Your Uncle Niall
The American Association of Medical Colleges News (AAMCNEWS) Lists Five Ways that academic medical centers are improving patient care, saving lives and reducing costs. 2 on their list is Reducing Sepsis Risk in Children.
Reporting on the recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which showed that adopting Rory’s Regulations mandatory sepsis protocols that require hospitals in New York State to provide antibiotics, fluids and take blood cultures within 60 minutes of suspected sepsis reduced the odds of death by 40% compared to children who did not receive all three steps.
To read the original article on AAMC News, please click here.
I walked around lower Manhattan a few days ago; it’s an area I try to avoid because it’s where our Rory died. I could feel the terror start to build up again in my body as it does when I am around there, near the hospital where he died. It’s like a newsreel rolling continuously in my head, reliving the last few days, the last few hours of his life, of our lives, as we knew it.
I remember being in the room when the nice doctor came in to tell us Rory had died, and I remember screaming at that nice doctor who had tried so hard to save him in the Critical Care Unit. I remember screaming at him: “I brought him here, I brought him here and you (the hospital) sent him home, ” screaming, wailing, at the top of my voice. When we brought Rory to the hospital and to his pediatrician a few nights earlier they sent him home with a diagnosis of gastric flu even though he had all the symptoms of sepsis and indeed was in septic shock.
But Rory was gone and we will never get those days, hours or minutes back. All the good parenting, the safe parenting we had been practicing for our entire lives-the intentional parenting of bike helmets and knee pads, the baby gates, the seat belts… everything we do and did as good parents… gone, because noone, not one single person that we brought Rory to who SHOULD have known to check him for sepsis, did so. And so he is dead and our lives will never be the same.
What Sepsis Awareness Month means to me is using the opportunity to spread the word about sepsis everywhere we can. Wherever you see articles about sepsis this month share them, talk about sepsis, make sure your loved ones know about this preventable death. Please share.
The Rory Staunton Foundation offers downloadable resources to help you understand sepsis and its causes. We provide printable brochures and fact sheets explaining what symptoms to look for, how to treat this illness as well as prevention tips to stay healthy.
Check out all the resources available by clicking on the Library tab above and navigating to the Downloads section. Through sepsis awareness and education, we believe that lives will be saved so we provide these valuable resources free so everyone asks “could it be sepsis?” and thinks sepsis!
Our beautiful eight-month-old baby girl Stella was a twin to her brother Nash and a little sister to her four-year-old brother Hayden. My husband and I went through eighteen months of fertility treatments until finally we became pregnant with our twins: Nash and Stella. For us, it was a perfect picture. After Hayden was born we wanted him to have a sibling. So, our lovely babies were born on July 8th, 2017. Nash was baby A at 6lbs 13ounces and Stella was baby B at 6lbs 8ounces. From the start Stella was our crier and quite the diva. She was always hungry and we lovingly called her our “bottle alarm”. She was what they call a “happy spitter”. I think she probably went through four costume changes a day; sometimes she came home from daycare in her brother’s clothes.
It’s been six years since Rory died, six awful years of fighting for change in the world of sepsis, as he would have wanted us to do, and as we want to do.
A major announcement occurred last week that is going to save thousands and thousands of lives from sepsis in the future. The announcement was made quietly but it will have a huge effect on the future of sepsis.
We haven’t been very familiar with the work of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) or the Office for Preparedness and Response (HHS) and our guess is that most people haven’t -but now is a good time to learn about what they are doing. Last week BARDA’s Director, Rick Bright, announced plans that will save thousands of lives from sepsis.
BARDA is an agency of the United States Government (Health and Human Services) and it works extremely well to protect us from future threats. “Sepsis is one of the country’s most urgent systemic health threats,” they said last week when Rick Bright, and Robert Kadlec, his boss, announced a new division that will search the world to find start-ups that will give us solutions to health security risks… specifically sepsis.
Today if you show up at a hospital with a diagnosed infection you will be administered a broad spectrum antibiotic in the hope that it will stop the infection, a blood sample will be taken and then between 24-48 hours the results will indicate what the disease is and what pathogen is responsible. This system is ridiculously slow and people are dying because with sepsis it is a race against the clock which determines if you live or die. BARDA wants to find technology that will identify infections immediately so your body won’t even have to fight off sepsis.
Simply stated: Right now we are too slow to recognize sepsis and act. The concern for the Federal Government is the future and how dangerous this slow reaction would be in the aftermath of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event because those who survive the initial assault are at high risk to develop sepsis.
Sepsis now has the attention of the federal government and soon the attention of scientists and industry and the medical community and capital markets nationwide. This is a HUGE step forward. This effort will save many lives in the future and we will be offering complete support for their actions. The fact that this level of attention is long overdue for sepsis is heartbreaking but we are looking to the future.
A new website was launched last week with details. Click here to visit the site.
“I recently read your story about your beautiful son Rory and my heart broke. My 11 year-old-daughter became septic and was hospitalized for three months and your story about the signs of sepsis gave me chills because it’s exactly what happened to my daughter.
She started school for three days in September and ended up in the hospital…it was the weekend when she started getting extremely high fever and was told to take back to back Tylenol/Motrin…it was probably viral…nothing broke her fever, then the vomiting and severe leg pain started, so by Monday she got blood work done and while waiting for results I took her to urgent care for a hip/leg x-ray thinking she broke a bone…nothing…but they did a rapid blood test and said she had the flu. I was relieved.
On our way home our pediatrician called and said they found bacteria growing in her blood and to head to the Medical Center as they were waiting for her…she was diagnosed with a MRSA blood infection, it also infected her lungs and at one point they thought her heart was infected. She was on oxygen, in ICU care, multiple blown IV lines, multiple MRI, CAT Scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, developed three blood clots, abscess deep in her pelvis, and finally spread to her bones where she had multiple operations: all this from MRSA. My daughter never had skin MRSA. It went directly into her blood somehow, she had no obvious open cuts, and she was the healthiest girl, never ever sick! We were told she got it by bad luck, wrong place, wrong time-it’s a big mystery how a healthy 11-year-old got this deadly bacteria and a mystery how she pulled through.
I tell everyone that if my healthy child got this any child can get it!
I want to thank you for all the public awareness you have done on behalf of your son. I feel it’s very needed because most parents I spoke to were shocked to find out how easily a child can get this and how it presents as a virus and can go by unnoticed during the critical time. I feel the schools/parents also need to be more educated on how serious this is as most didn’t even know.
I am so sad about Rory and needed to let you that your story and your work has reached many people including myself and no child and no parent should have to go through this! In many ways your strength and Rory’s spirit is making a difference.”
Rory Staunton was born 19 years ago today, May 13th, 1999. He came into this world and we adored him from the moment we set eyes on him. His lovely sister Kathleen who is a spark of light, humor, and love, joined him two years later-it is pure joy to call them my children on Mother’s Day.
I’m a mom because of these two special children. Rory is in Heaven, and there is a profound sadness for all of us because of that. I try not to think of him there, so far away from my hugs. Rory had big dreams. He wanted to fly, and I hope he is flying high, watching over us, witnessing our love for him from afar, he is in our hearts forever.
So, Happy Birthday Rory, it shouldn’t be this way.