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Hoosiers need to know the facts about sepsis. 
We encourage you to watch this brief video, and then please share it with your friends, family and colleagues.

You can download the sepsis awareness month toolkit here and learn more about how you can help raise sepsis awareness in your community by visiting survivesepsis.com. You can also download our pre-written social media and social media images to help promote sepsis awareness. 

Together, we can raise awareness about sepsis to help Hoosiers 

See It, Stop It, Survive It.

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Sepsis-about-text.pngWhat Is Sepsis? 

 
 

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death.

Sepsis is a public health issue and not just a hospital problem. According to a 2016  Sepsis Alliance survey, only 55  percent of Americans have heard of sepsis and even fewer understand the risk factors and warning signs. 

In Indiana, sepsis is the most frequent inpatient discharge aside from deliveries. Almost 3,500 Hoosiers died from sepsis in one year, according to the 2015 Indiana Hospital Association (IHA) Inpatient Discharge Study. 

Since 2008, Indiana hospitals have decreased inpatient sepsis mortality from 15.22 percent to 6.12 percent, according to the 2015 IHA Inpatient Discharge Study. Progress has been made, but we must continue to work to reduce the number of sepsis-related deaths across the state.

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FAQs

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death.

What causes sepsis?
Any type of infection, anywhere in the body, can cause sepsis. This can include seemingly minor infections on the skin, urinary tract infections, pneumonia or appendicitis.

How common is sepsis?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 1 million cases of sepsis in the United States each year, and up to half of the people who get sepsis will die.

Who can get sepsis?
Sepsis can affect any person of any age, from any type of infection, no matter how minor.

Are some people more at risk for getting sepsis?
While sepsis can affect anyone, you may be at a higher risk if you:

  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Are under 10 or over 65
  • Have an indwelling catheter or IV
  • Recently had surgery or have been hospitalized
  • Have a chronic illness (diabetes, AIDS, cancer, kidney or liver disease, etc.)
  • Have a severe burn or wound

How is sepsis diagnosed?
Sepsis can be difficult to diagnose because it shares many signs and symptoms with other conditions. Health care providers look for signs of sepsis like increased heart rate, breathing rates and temperature. They also rely on lab tests that check for signs of infection that may not be visible to the naked eye.

What are the signs or symptoms of sepsis?
There is no single sign or symptom of sepsis. Because sepsis stems from infection, symptoms can include common infection signs including diarrhea, vomiting and sore throat. Additionally, symptoms can include any of the following:

  • Shivering, fever, very cold
  • Extreme pain or feeling worse than ever 
  • Pale or discolored skin
  • Sleepy, difficult to wake up, confused
  • I feel like I might die
  • Short of breath

If you have an infection, along with any of these symptoms, you should seek medical treatment immediately.

How is sepsis treated?
Sepsis is a serious complication of infection that is usually treated in a hospital. Health care providers typically administer antibiotics to treat the infection, and work to keep vital organs healthy and prevent a drop in blood pressure. In some cases, other types of treatment may be required including oxygen and intravenous (IV) fluids or assisted breathing with a machine or kidney dialysis. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove tissue damaged by infection.

How can I prevent sepsis?
While there is no way to completely prevent the possibility of sepsis, there are many ways to reduce your risk including:

  • Be vaccinated. Protect yourself against the flu, pneumonia and other infections that could lead to sepsis. Talk to your doctor for more information.
  • Be thorough. Properly clean and treat scrapes and wounds and practice good hygiene (e.g., hand washing, bathing regularly).
  • Be vigilant. If you have an infection, look for signs like fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, confusion and disorientation.

Are there any long-term effects of sepsis?
Many sepsis survivors recover completely and their lives return to normal. However, some people may experience organ damage, tissue loss or may require amputation of arms or legs. 

Additionally, according to the Sepsis Alliance, post-sepsis syndrome is a condition that affects up to 50 percent of sepsis survivors. They are left with physical and/or psychological long-term effects, such as:

  • Insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Nightmares, vivid hallucinations and panic attacks
  • Disabling muscle and joint pains
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Decreased mental (cognitive) functioning
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-belief

If you suspect that you, or a loved one, has post-sepsis syndrome, talk to a doctor about resources for emotional and psychological assistance.

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Sepsis-about-text.pngWhat’s Being Done

Indiana hospitals are on the front lines providing Hoosiers with the tools to stay healthy. Health care professionals have the responsibility to educate patients and the community about sepsis and how to prevent it. The Indiana Patient Safety Center (IPSC) of IHA is working with hospitals across the state to create reliable systems of care to prevent sepsis and its potentially devastating effects. IPSC provides education and tools to hospitals to foster and support cultures of patient safety and the adoption of best practices.

Indiana hospitals aren’t the only ones working to make a difference. To see what other organizations are doing, check out the Global Sepsis Alliance, the CDC, Sepsis Alliance and The Rory Staunton Foundation.

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Sepsis Stories


Orange as a Pumpkin

I was having stomach pains and vomiting a disgusting unusual substance. I went to the ER twice in the same day.  During my second visit, I was admitted and they performed a colonoscopy. I needed to have emergency colostomy surgery to remove part of my colon.  I developed sepsis and was in the ICU for a week.  All of my organs were failing. I received four dialysis treatments; I was as orange as a pumpkin from my liver shutting down. Dr. Shedd and Dr. Erickson, along with their great nurses at Columbus Regional Hospital, saved my life. I had to re-learn how to walk and do other basic activities during my two weeks of physical therapy. I am very lucky to be alive.

Shannon, Columbus


A 20 Percent Chance of Survival

On a Sunday morning, I woke up in pain. A trip to the ER revealed that I had a kidney stone. I was sent home with pain medications and was told to follow up with my general practitioner. Later that day, I experienced severe chills, colder than I have ever felt. Now I know that severe chills are one of the first signs of sepsis. My sister called the ER, and they told her that their waiting room was full but she could bring me back if necessary. We opted not to go. My conditions worsened, and by Wednesday, I was in the hospital with a 20 percent chance of surviving. I had septic shock, which attacked my lungs, and I had ARDS (acute respiratory distress shock). Three months later, I was finally on the way to a full recovery. Miracles do happen. In hindsight, if I had known the symptoms of sepsis, I could have recognized what was happening and been proactive in my health care.

Frieda, Argos


Lucky to Survive

I got sepsis last month after having a prostate biopsy. The E. coli bacteria that rode the biopsy needle into my bloodstream was resistant to the antibiotic they gave me prior to and after the procedure. I had the biopsy on a Wednesday, and by Friday after lunch I started feeling ill. I thought I was coming down with the flu. Saturday morning, I realized I had a UTI and had my wife take me to the prompt-med clinic. The doctor there told me I had a "rip roaring" UTI. He gave me the strongest antibiotic he could, and said it would knock the infection in 24 hours. That evening my fever spiked at 104.7, and I was shaking with chills. I woke up the next morning in a pool of sweat, but my fever was down to 100; I thought the antibiotic was working. Later that morning, my fever, chills and severe shaking were back. My wife called an ambulance, and I was transported to the ER. The ER doctors and staff were very good and quickly diagnosed my illness. I was admitted and seemed to be stabilized at 4 a.m., but at 6:30 a.m. my fever spiked again. I was shaking so badly and was so short of breath I thought I was going to die. My blood oxygen level was down to 88 and they couldn't get it up. The doctor came in and immediately transferred me to the ICU. A chest x-ray revealed that I had fluid on my lungs. The fluid was collecting in my lungs because of the stress of the infection. The doctor also told me that the blood work showed an elevation in the enzymes that can indicate a heart attack. They said the elevation in enzymes was due to the stress sepsis was putting on my heart and lungs. I spent another day in the ICU until they cleared me to return to a general care room. I had to stay there another night, and most of the next day while they determined what the bacteria was in my bloodstream and what antibiotic would kill it. Finally, they determined that the bacteria was E. coli. This all happened to me just one month ago, and I returned to work two weeks ago. I am doing fairly well, but still get tired easily and am taking Keflex daily. From what I have read and been told about sepsis, I think I am lucky to have survived. I am 66 years old and in good physical condition, eating right and exercising regularly. If I had some other health issues it might have not gone so well for me. My advice to anyone who starts experiencing these symptoms is do not hesitate to seek proper medical care!

Michael, Columbus

A Deadly Diagnosis

My husband was admitted to the hospital with a high fever and given antibiotics. After being in the ICU for a week, he was taken to rehab. This back-and-forth was repeated for nine weeks. Each time his fever would go down they would try rehab, and each time he ended up back in the ICU. He was given antibiotics each time, but they were never able to diagnose the infection. He died from sepsis after the last time he was taken to ICU.

Patsy, West Harrison


Camping Trip Gone Wrong

My husband was diagnosed with sepsis in 2015. We were camping in Tennessee when he became very ill. Suddenly, he was vomiting, had a fever and chills and was experiencing muscle spasms and weakness. It was relentless. After watching this go on for an entire day, we went to a local hospital who immediately transferred him to a hospital in Nashville. The doctors were excellent, and we thank God he recovered. He spent a whole week in the ICU, including three days pumping his stomach and five days of strong IV antibiotics. I am so grateful for the doctors at St. Thomas for their wisdom in treating him and saving his life.

Donna, Marysville

The Doctor Asked If I’d Like To See A Priest

Due to having breast cancer, I had a port inserted into my chest to assist with my chemotherapy. After my first round of chemo, my port became infected with MRSA. A week and a half later I found myself in the emergency room with sepsis. I only remember snippets of my month long stay in the hospital, but when the doctor asked if I’d like to see a priest I realized exactly how sick I was. I have since slowly improved and am no longer on my death bed. 

Debra, North Port


My Brother-in-Law Hadn’t Felt Well for a Couple Days

He had flu-like symptoms and the doctor diagnosed him with pneumonia. On the third day of his symptoms persisting, my sister took him to a small local emergency room. The emergency room also thought it was pneumonia, admitted him and started him on antibiotics. Within an hour, he started having difficulty breathing, and an ambulance transported him to a larger hospital. He stopped breathing on the way. By the time I arrived, only 10 minutes after the ambulance, his skin was mottled and he was totally unresponsive. I have worked in emergency medicine on ambulances and in the fire service for 43 years and, aside from traumatic events, I have never seen anything progress so quickly. He was a great guy, and I miss him a lot. He was never sick and took good care of himself. His death was tragic and unexpected. I had never heard of sepsis until I saw the coroner’s report.


A Feverish Race to Survival 

A few years ago, I had a stent put into my kidney due to a stone that would not pass. There is pain while the stone is inside, but even when it had passed I was experiencing terrible pain. I had gotten it on a weekday, and by Friday of that week I was still hurting, but things felt different. I woke up Saturday morning chilled and I took my temperature and found that it was 103 degrees. My whole body ached and felt awful. The fever was still rising so I had blood tests taken and was put on an IV. I had sepsis. I couldn't believe it. They admitted me into the hospital where I had blood tests every two to four hours to ensure that the antibiotics were working. I looked like a pin cushion from all the blood tests and IVs, but I survived, thanks to the good Lord above. Many people who get sepsis do not turn out as fortunate. 

Sarah, Jeff


A Long Recovery 

Earlier this year I had been dealing with a slight earache for approximately three months. I was prescribed antibiotics and prednisone to help fight it off. On May 5, I was sick all day with stomach problems. Later that night, I was so weak I couldn’t do anything, and an ambulance was called. May 24 is the next day that I remember; I had been unconscious of my surroundings for 19 days. Hospital staff told me that I died three times and had been intubated for six days, among various other issues involving sepsis. It was a terrifying situation, but the hospital staff were all wonderful people. Eventually, I was sent home from the hospital, one month later, on June 5. 

Leigh, Winona Lake


A Seemingly Minor Infection 

The summer that I was about 10 years old, my family went camping next to an amusement park with a roller skate arena. I loved to skate and refused to let the fact that I didn't pack any socks keep me from skating with my dirty feet in the much used rental skates. A small blister formed on my right heel from the friction, and the blister became infected. Before I knew it, red streaks were running up my leg from the wound and the lymph nodes in my leg and groin became swollen and painful. I began to run a fever and had severe chills. I was agitated, aggressive and could not sleep. The aspirin I was given did nothing to relieve the pain or control my fever. My parents took me to a local doctor where I was given antibiotics and green soap to cleanse my foot while we were still camping. Thankfully, I recovered fully. 

Robin, Muncie


Share your story.


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Get Involved

Access the Survive Sepsis Toolkit. IHA has designed a special toolkit to help your organization raise awareness about sepsis. 

Share your story. Whether you are a survivor or grieving a loved one, share your story of how you have been touched by sepsis.

Join the fight. Register now to join the Indiana Patient Safety Center, the Indiana Hospital Association and supporters from across the state at the  Rally Against Sepsis on World Sepsis Day, Sept. 13.