According to the Sepsis Alliance, every two minutes, someone dies from a sepsis infection in the U.S.
And every year, more Americans die from it than from prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined.
But alarmingly enough, more than 40 percent of U.S. adults have never heard of sepsis. Nicole Kellog, an Advocate Nurse, and Dr. Ranjana Soorya, a hospitalist, are anti-sepsis champions at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. Both are known for their dedication to protecting their patients from this severe infection and educating family members and others in their field.
They share their thoughts about awareness and prevention of sepsis below.
Q: When you hear sepsis, what is the first image that comes to your mind?
Kellogg: A ticking clock. Surviving sepsis is dependent on receiving a series of interventions as quickly as possible.
Q: How severe is sepsis, and what are the chances of surviving it?
Dr. Soorya: Sepsis carries a high death rate if left untreated. However, with prompt treatment, patients can respond quite well.
Q: How do patients get sepsis?
Kellogg: Sepsis occurs when your body “overreacts” to an infection, causing severe damage throughout the body. Prevention of infections, good hygiene and being up-to-date with vaccinations can lower the chances of getting an infection in the first place.
Q: Why does knowing the symptoms of sepsis matter, and what are they?
Dr. Soorya: With sepsis, it’s important to make an early diagnosis so treatment can be started immediately to prevent organ damage. You can be a survivor of sepsis, but if not treated early enough, there can be long-term effects. Patients need immediate fluids, antibiotics and localization of infection. Symptoms can include low blood pressure, confusion, high heart rate, fevers and elevated respiratory rates.
Q: What is a common myth or misunderstanding about sepsis?
Kellogg: Many believe sepsis is a blood infection. You do not have to have bacteria in your blood to have sepsis.
Q: Any final words of wisdom?
Kellogg: As a nurse, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of sepsis and to watch for them in my patients. My role is to evaluate patients who trigger sepsis alerts and determine the next steps. Many of our “good catches” have been due to nurses critically thinking through a patient exhibiting symptoms, escalating concerns to the Rapid Response team or physician and catching sepsis early. Collaborative physicians like Dr. Soorya actively work with the nursing staff to ensure timely administration of life-saving interventions for their patients.