3 Sepsis Heroes Share What They Have Been Up To
December 6, 2022
Do you ever wonder what award winners do once the ceremony is over? When it comes to Sepsis Heroes, it seems the award encouraged them to do even more. We spoke with three Sepsis Heroes Award honorees to see what they have been up to since they were celebrated as heroes.
Capt. Rom L. Duckworth, MPA, LP, EFO; 2015 Sepsis Hero
Sepsis Alliance named Rom Duckworth a Sepsis Hero in 2015. The award honored his contributions to sepsis awareness and education among emergency response personnel and firefighters. Rom is an award-winning EMS educator, career fire captain, and EMS coordinator with 30 years of experience.
“I first became aware of Sepsis Alliance while simply searching for information about the topic. I wanted to better understand it as a pre-hospital clinician,” Rom explains. Since 2015, Rom has worked on several projects for Sepsis Alliance. One was to develop sepsis education at a national level through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority Division of Research Innovation and Ventures (BARDA DRIVe). He has also worked with Sepsis Alliance Board Chair and emergency medicine physician Karin Molander, MD. Together, they wrote a newly included chapter on sepsis for the International Advanced Medical Life Support Course. They are now revising and updating this chapter.
“I have less direct clinical contact with patients now than I did in 2015. But my colleagues love to let me know when a pre-hospital sepsis alert was successful, especially when they caught a particularly subtle presentation,” Rom says. “The joke around the fire department is that because of my work with a Sepsis Alliance, I get paid a nickel every time someone says the word sepsis.”
Rom has also spent a great deal of time following sepsis-related research concerning pre-hospital and emergency care. “What stands out for me is that there is no single clinical test, assessment, criteria, or absolute treatment pathway upon which everyone agrees,” Rom points out. “Good sepsis care is not without structure. But it remains extremely challenging for individual clinicians at all levels and in all environments. I continue to be amazed at the hard work that continues to go into understanding and combating sepsis most effectively and delivering the support and resources for clinicians doing frontline work.”
Sharon Hansen, MN, RN, CPN; 2018 Sepsis Hero
Sharon Hansen received a Sepsis Hero Award for two reasons: her work in healthcare and as someone personally touched by sepsis. Sharon’s husband survived sepsis but lives with painful issues related to post-sepsis syndrome.
After receiving her award, Sharon continued working as a critical care educator but missed the patient contact that comes with hands-on nursing. She had always wanted to work in pediatrics, so she switched gears. “Caring for pediatric individuals with infection and, on occasion, sepsis has been a tremendous learning curve for me,” Sharon says. “This curve includes learning recognition in and providing care for children of all ages and underlying diagnoses. Often, we provide care for individuals who have survived initial sepsis and [conditions after sepsis] and now face readmission.”
Sharon still serves as adjunct faculty for the University of Washington, Tacoma, in the Nursing and Healthcare Leadership program. She also continues to advocate for sepsis care and safety. She has done presentations on sepsis and post-sepsis syndrome at a local chapter of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ National Teaching Conference and the Washington State Perianesthia Nursing conference.
“While sepsis has affected our family personally, and my husband continues to deal with pain, our children, grandchildren, friends, family, and the amazing Pacific Northwest give us great joy. I am thankful that Sepsis Alliance has provided tools to help me grow and heal through our experiences. I use Sepsis Alliance Institute as a resource for my own learning and support and share it with those I work with.”
Maile Le Boeuf; 2019 Sepsis Hero
Maile Le Boeuf, a Northern California resident, survived maternal sepsis after giving birth to her second child. Sepsis Alliance recognized Maile as a Sepsis Hero because of her drive and determination to spread sepsis awareness. She continually shares her deeply personal story to help educate the public and provide healthcare professionals with a patient’s perspective.
“Since being awarded in 2019, I continue to share my story and spread awareness with the medical community,” Maile says. “I routinely speak at pharmaceutical meetings. I have had my story published in a parenting magazine and I was filmed by Sepsis Alliance for a maternal sepsis awareness campaign. Most recently, I partnered as a Patient with Lived Experience Consultant for The Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health in the rollout of a national patient safety bundle.” Maile is also a member of the Maternal Sepsis Community Leadership Board, which works to improve maternal sepsis care with a specific focus on reducing disparities.
Unfortunately, Maile continues to experience post-sepsis issues. Avascular necrosis (AVN) caused by her sepsis treatment while in the ICU led to a double hip replacement. She has since learned that she also has AVN in both ankles, causing chronic pain. Maile will need both ankles replaced at some point.
“For now, I do my best to stay active, within my limitations,” she says. “My scars are a constant reminder of everything that I endured, but I no longer feel shame. I feel strong and proud and like a superhero! After a trauma like sepsis, it is hard to believe that you will ever be more than that trauma again. It took me seven years to become whole again.”
If you or someone you know has an infection or has been exposed to one, watch for signs of sepsis. Sepsis is a medical emergency.
Want to learn more about sepsis survivors and some of the issues they face? Visit Sepsis Survivors on the Sepsis Alliance site.