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Susan Irick


My story started on Mother’s Day – May 4, 2014. I am a diabetic and I wear an insulin pump. I have had the pump for 12 years, and I am very meticulous about sterility and changing the site every three days. I had been outside doing what I love to do in the spring – digging my flower gardens and setting out plants. I got very dirty and sweaty. The next morning, I noticed my pump site was red and hot. I changed the pump site and called my practitioner for an antibiotic. (Sepsis and Diabetes)

The site got redder and larger. By the next Tuesday, it was the size of a baseball and very painful. I came into work and began having severe dizziness, nausea, cold sweat and confusion. My colleagues took me immediately to the Emergency Room, and the doctor told me I had severe sepsis! What a shock! I, of all people, did not even comprehend that I had sepsis! I should know better! How ironic! I was admitted to the hospital and stayed for 11 days.

I received several intravenous antibiotics, blood and fluids. I had heart failure, anemia and several other related problems. I do not remember most of the time I was in the hospital. It took me about three months to fully recover. I now know, as a sepsis survivor, how easy it is to not recognize sepsis.

It is so important to recognize sepsis quickly. Time is the major factor for survival. Treatment is as simple as giving patients antibiotics and intravenous fluids as soon as sepsis is identified. Mortality due to sepsis increases 7.6 percent for every hour that passes without treatment. In our hospital, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, we have put forth a strong campaign to fight sepsis. Last year, we did Sepsis Workshops using didactic instruction and simulation. We trained more than 1,200 licensed staff and 400 unlicensed staff. We also have CMEs for physicians and advanced health professionals to facilitate sepsis awareness. I have taught students at several area schools including paramedics and nursing techs. I have included one of our tools for instruction: our “September Awareness” table that reviews the levels of sepsis and actions. We have these pocket-sized for our staff.

Another important facet of our Sepsis Awareness campaign is community education. It is so important to instruct people in the community about recognizing the signs of sepsis and seeking proper treatment. I also stress the importance of vaccinations including the flu vaccine and the pneumonia vaccines (including the PPSV23 and PCV 13).

I am so thankful that I survived my episode of sepsis. I hope that we, as health professionals, can learn how dangerous this condition can be and ensure that our friends, families, neighbors and patients are aware and not affected by this dangerous killer.

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