The Blog

Families Describe Losing Loved Ones to Sepsis

I am struck by the generous selflessness of bereaved families who genuinely do not want others to suffer like them after losing loved ones - especially from deaths which they believe were preventable.

I am struck by the generous selflessness of bereaved families who genuinely do not want others to suffer like them after losing loved ones - especially from deaths which they believe were preventable.

They have offered to provide case studies about their traumatic experiences, which is crucial when highlighting the importance of a life-saving awareness campaign, such as sepsis, as they demonstrate that what happened to them, could so easily happen to others.

Sepsis was previously known as septicaemia or a blood disorder, but these are now both obsolete terms. It most commonly occurs following an infection, causing severe inflammation of the organs and tissues.

Dr Ron Daniels and fellow campaigners from UK Sepsis Trust are keen to raise awareness about sepsis, particularly now as its symptoms are similar to flu and can be missed by medics; an early diagnosis is crucial so patients can be treated correctly with powerful antibiotics.

They are also petitioning the government to make sepsis a clinical priority by establishing it as a medical emergency; you can support it too from this link.

Rhian Oliver, from Skipton, lost her mother's mother, Hilary Lovell, on Christmas Day last after she suffered a urinary tract infection. Her daughter Phoebe, who was three at the time, had woken up with chicken pox, and had been keen to show them to her nanny. It was not to be.

Rhian recalls: "I arrived at the hospital just as my dad and brother were coming down the corridor, my dad shaking his head and my brother John drip white. Disbelief was my initial reaction. I'd seen mum 24 hrs earlier and although she was ill, more poorly than I'd ever seen her before, it never crossed my mind that she might be dying. We all thought that mum had the flu and her GP had thought the same, and she had also been diagnosed with pleurisy on Christmas Eve, but it wasn't any of those. It was sepsis caused by a urinary tract infection.

"All our lives changed that day. For me, I'd lost my mum and my best friend; my husband lost his surrogate mum and my children lost the most wonderful and devoted nanny in the world, all in the space of six days. I'd never heard of sepsis before, and I only wish I knew a year ago what I know now, then perhaps my mum would still be here.

"Mum had visited the GP twice in the 48 hrs before she died. The first doctor diagnosed flu and shingles, and then 24 hrs later a different GP diagnosed flu and pleurisy. Mum was admitted to Airedale Hospital in Steeton on Christmas Eve as an ambulance emergency and she received fantastic care; they knew what they were dealing with and within 20 minutes put her on a bundle, but despite their best efforts, she arrested and died on Christmas Day."

Please also spare a thought for Barbara Franks a mother of four young children from Manchester, who this year face their first Christmas without their father who died from sepsis 10 months ago.

"My husband died from sepsis a few months ago aged just 38, leaving four young children aged from 6 to just 3 months old. There were no warning signs until a couple of days before when he said his eczema had got slightly infected, but he went to work as normal on the Thursday.

"Thursday night he put himself to bed early with sickness and diarrhoea as there had been a virus going round which me and a couple of the kids had had, so I thought no more about it.

"Friday came and he was still in bed. Then Friday night/early hours Saturday morning, he started having all the symptoms, light headedness, breathing problems and clamminess, so I called an ambulance, but unfortunately he went into cardiac arrest and after an hour was pronounced dead. It took a post mortem to tell us he had died from sepsis which I had never heard of until now.

"It would be great to make people more aware of the symptoms as my four children are now without a daddy."

Carl Gore is still traumatised at the loss of his lovely sister Cerri, 20, the youngest of four siblings, who died in September 2010 after having an abscess lanced from her groin which led to the infection and sepsis.

He says, "Cerri went into the Royal Liverpool Hospital with vomiting and diarrhea on the 2nd of September, she had a high temperature and met the criteria to be diagnosed for sepsis and should have been given IV antibiotics when she met the criteria, but was tragically failed by the NHS as there was a delay in giving my sister IV antibiotics by twenty hours, which was devastating to hear from the local hospital. We strongly believe as a family and by reading about sepsis, our Cerri would be with us today if the IV antibiotics would have been administered when Cerri was dignosed with sepsis."

We also have cases studies from survivors too and welcome requests for media interviews.

Thank you too to Dr Hilary Jones for pledging his support for UK Sepsis.

Dr Daniels reminds us of those all-important symptoms for sepsis, and the Sepsis Six progamme he is urging health professionals to follow:

"If a person has two or more of a very high (or very low) temperature, a racing heart beat, rapid shallow breathing, or confusion then they may have sepsis. They should seek medical advice if at all concerned. It is often difficult to distinguish sepsis from flu. However, if any of these features exist and the skin is cool, pale or mottled, the patient has lost consciousness, or has not passed water for more than 18 hours, then the patient needs to be taken to hospital as soon as possible. Tests should help to make the diagnosis."