Sepsis: The Dangerous Six-letter Word
by Kassie Waters, Manager of Quality and Patient Safety at Kaweah Delta
Sepsis is a word that you probably have not heard, but it is a word you
should learn. Knowing what sepsis is and what its symptoms are can literally
help save lives, possibly your own. Sepsis is the body’s
overactive and toxic response to any type of infection: bacterial, viral,
fungal or even parasitic and it can quickly turn a healthy person into
someone who is suddenly fighting organ failure, amputation or even death.
While anyone can get sepsis, some groups like very young children, older
adults, and those with weakened immune systems, cancer patients included,
are more likely to be affected.
While sepsis can cost a person his or her life, it is also one of the most
expensive hospital costs a person can face. As a registered nurse for
the past 20 years and Manager of Quality and Patient Safety at Kaweah
Delta, I have seen firsthand how devastating sepsis can be when it goes
untreated. On average nationwide, approximately 30 percent of patients
diagnosed with severe sepsis do not survive. However, I have seen what
can happen when someone recognizes the symptoms of sepsis and seeks treatment.
Early detection provides the best chance for survival and recovery. It
all comes down to remembering the TIME acronym and watching for a combination
of these symptoms:
Temperature: Higher or lower than normal
Infection: Look for signs/symptoms of an infection – fever, fatigue,
Mental Decline: You may be confused, sleepy or difficult to awaken
Extremely Ill: You might feel the worst you have ever felt, feel like you
might die, or be in severe pain or discomfort.
If you suspect sepsis, see a doctor urgently, call 911 or go to a hospital
and say, “I am concerned about sepsis.”
At Kaweah Delta, we take sepsis seriously. In fact, this year, we added
a Sepsis Nurse Coordinator to our team. His sole purpose is to make sure
that any patient at Kaweah Delta who has been diagnosed with sepsis is
getting the right care at the right time so they can have the best outcome.
That person is Ryan Smith, a Registered Nurse who has spent the last 11
years caring for patients at our Medical Center. Like the rest of our
team, he is passionate about our patients and has proven that he is willing
to do what is best for them. We are grateful to have him on our team and
we know that our community will benefit from having this extra set of
eyes on you or your loved ones, should they need treatment for sepsis.
Now that you have learned a little bit about sepsis, I would highly encourage
you to practice the following habits to prevent it.
Vaccinations, also known as immunizations, can help make you immune to
viruses, such as the chicken pox, which can lead to sepsis.
Care for Open Wounds
• Cuts, scrapes, or breaks in the skin can allow harmful bacteria
to enter your body. Clean open wounds as quickly as possible and keep
• Monitor wounds for signs of an infection: such as redness around
the wound, skin around the wound is warm to touch, increased pain and/or
discharge from wound.
• Consult a doctor if there are signs of infection
If Prescribed, Take Antibiotics Correctly
• Follow the directions for use
• Take them on time
• Finish the full course, even if you feel better sooner
• Store the antibiotics as directed
Wash Your Hands
• Before eating or handling food
• After using the bathroom
• After blowing your nose or coughing
• After touching pets or other animals
• After going to school or going shopping
Kassie Waters, Manager of Quality and Patient Safety at Kaweah Delta, has
partnered with Sepsis Alliance to educate the community about sepsis during
the month of September, which is Sepsis Awareness Month.