Recognizing the signs of life-threatening disease sepsis

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) — One in three patients who die in the hospital have sepsis, according to the Center for Disease Control. It’s a life threatening disease that can be caused by any infection.

Bon Secours St. Francis Nursing Director Stacy Uhrich is trained to recognize the symptoms of sepsis in patients, but never expected to fall victim to the disease herself.

After having surgery to remove kidney stones, she noticed a drop in her blood pressure then began to see symptoms of sepsis.  “I see it almost every day and was completely shocked that it happened to me,” she said. “I got up to go to the bathroom came back to the bed and had some uncontrollable shaking, some significant shortness of breath and thats when we really knew it had started to cross over and decline quickly.”

According to the CDC, sepsis is the body’s life threatening reaction to an infection and begins outside of the hospital for nearly 80% of patients.

Nurse practitioner and sepsis coordinator Brandi Giles says “the definitive cure for the infection in sepsis is to treat source control. So if it’s a bloodstream infection, the definitive cure is to find out the pathogen, the bacteria that’s causing the infection, and treat that with the appropriate antibiotics.”

Giles says recognizing the symptoms and getting to a hospital quickly is extremely important.  

“To remember the symptoms, use the mnemonic for time,” she says. “T for temperature so if the temperature is higher or lower than normal, i for infection because you have to have an infection for sepsis, m for mental decline, so confusion or agitation and e for extremely ill.”

The disease is most common in older patients, pregnant women, children under the age of 1 and people with chronic conditions like diabetes.

Uhrich says she was lucky she acted quickly and advises patients to “really verbalize exactly how you’re feeling and the things you’re noticing.”

To prevent infection, the CDC recommends staying on top of vaccines and chronic illnesses and practicing good hygiene with cuts.

To hear more from experts at Bon Secours on this health topic and others, listen every Saturday morning at 10am on 106.3 WORD radio.  

To submit your questions for our series, click here.

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