It’s Time to Talk About Sepsis

By Blair Klayko

Valorie was living with her daughter’s family, using a walker to get around the house and enjoying her independence. One day, Valorie began experiencing severe pain, and her family rushed her to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with a serious infection that led to septic shock. Valorie was placed on a ventilator to help her breathe and a feeding tube to receive nutrition while her body healed. 

Many families find themselves in Valorie’s shoes, because any infection – like a wound, pneumonia or a urinary tract infection – can lead to sepsis.

Sepsis is your body’s extreme response to an infection. It is a very serious medical emergency that requires timely treatment to avoid tissue damage, organ failure or even death.

Luckily, Valorie addressed her condition in time, and when she became stable enough at the emergency room, she transitioned to Kindred Hospital Northland for respiratory rehabilitation and rehabilitation.

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Like many people fighting sepsis, Valorie felt very weak at first. She needed help with all of her daily needs, like walking and using the bathroom. Other symptoms people face are confusion or disorientation, shortness of breath, high heart rate, fever, extreme coldness, pain and clammy or sweaty skin.

Some people are more prone to infection that leads to sepsis:

  • Adults over 65 years old
  • People living with a chronic condition like diabetes, respiratory disease, cancer or kidney disease
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Babies under one year old
  • People diagnosed with staph infection, E.coli or strep

As Valorie worked with her therapy team, she began to make small steps toward recovery. Her strength began to return, which encouraged her to participate more in physical and occupational therapy – at times even looking forward to the sessions.

Her positive attitude reflected in her recovery as she worked to breathe on her own for short periods of time, and then finally without the ventilator at all. She was able to begin a simple diet and her feeding tube was removed permanently.

“I appreciate the way all my therapists tried to make my therapy sessions fun,” Valorie said. “I’m just looking forward to going home.”

And home she went. By the time Valorie left Kindred Hospital Northland, she was able to walk again and was providing all of her own self-care.

You can support a loved one like Valorie. Here are four ways to avoid sepsis and serious medical treatment.  

  1. Know the risks and symptoms of sepsis, as outlined above, so you can identify any problems early.
  2. If you or a loved one is living with a chronic condition, follow your care plan as your doctor laid it out to you. This means taking medication properly, getting enough fluids, sleeping as normally as possible, maintaining good hygiene and treating any wounds you have.
  3. Wash your hands constantly – especially in public places or healthcare facilities.
  4. If you or a loved one suspects sepsis or has an infection that’s not getting better, act quickly. Ask your doctor or nurse if the infection be leading to sepsis.

If you want to learn more about Kindred Hospitals, where we have clinical expertise in treating sepsis, find a location near you or call 1.866.KINDRED to speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week about if this care is appropriate for your loved one.

For more resources on sepsis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.