Today’s New York Times features a Queens couple whose son, Rory, succumbed to septic shock two years ago. During several consultations, his doctors misunderstood what was happening to him.
Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton’s campaign to increase sepsis awareness recently brought them to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention. Martin Doerfler, MD, our senior vice president of clinical strategy and development, accompanied them.
When the Stauntons sought ways to save others from an ordeal like theirs, they connected with North Shore-LIJ, which has reduced sepsis mortality by 50 percent. Together with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Dr. Doerfler, the Stauntons helped to create a clinician’s checklist to flag patients at risk for sepsis.
These same guidelines are the basis of “Rory’s Regulations,” which the New York State Department of Health issued last year for early identification and treatment of sepsis.
The Stauntons tell their story in Sepsis: A Common Threat Flies Under the Radar.
Sepsis is deadlier than most cancers, strokes and heart attacks, says Dr. Doerfler. He describes it as the body’s over-reaction to an infection. The immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream that cause inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a domino effect that damages multiple organ systems, causing failure. If the situation progresses to septic shock, a dramatic drop in blood pressure drops may lead to death. Sepsis most often strikes children less than a year old, the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems. Survivors are often left disabled, Dr. Doerfler added.
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is a leader in the fight against sepsis. It creates and supports advocacy initiatives, helped to craft the guidelines for the care of patients with severe sepsis and worked to improve identification of sepsis for clinicians.