Mother Honored for Raising Sepsis Awareness, the Disease That Took Her Baby’s LIfe

August 3, 2020
Sepsis Alliance honors illustrator Alyssia Aguilar with the Erin Kay Flatley Spirit Award for creating a cartoon ladybug to help raise sepsis awareness among children and their caregivers. Aguilar lost her newborn son to sepsis, which takes the lives of 18 children per day in the U.S.

Alyssia AguilarSepsis Alliance is proud to announce that Alyssia Aguilar is the 2020 recipient of the Erin Kay Flatley Spirit Award. Sepsis Alliance is honoring Alyssia for creating Bug, a cartoon ladybug, to help children and caregivers learn about infection and sepsis prevention. Sepsis is the body’s life-threatening response to any infection, including flu and COVID-19, that affects 1.7 million people and takes approximately 270,000 lives every year in the United States. Globally, it is the leading cause of death of children. Alyssia and her family experienced this personally.

Alyssia created Bug in memory of her son Mark Anthony II who died from sepsis when he was 16 days old. Alyssia went into labor on July 7, 2017, when she was 25 weeks pregnant, giving birth to twins, Selena and Mark Anthony II. As micro-preemies, they were admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Less than a month later while still in the NICU, Mark Anthony II contracted an infection that led to sepsis and he died.

“I wanted to find a way to remember my son’s name and honor his life by giving back,” said Alyssia, who lives in Texas with her husband Mark Anthony, Selena, and eldest daughter Emma.

Alyssia Aguilar

Looking for a way to give back, Alyssia reached out to Sepsis Alliance and offered her skills as an illustrator. She learned that Carl Flatley, DDS, MSD founded Sepsis Alliance because he too lost a child to sepsis. His daughter Erin Kay Flatley, for whom this award is named, was an aspiring teacher who died of sepsis when she was 23 years old after undergoing a routine outpatient procedure. Dr. Flatley’s endearing nickname for Erin was Bug. After her death, Carl used a ladybug symbol to represent her.

“Alyssia’s determination to raise sepsis awareness in Mark Anthony II’s name, so that other parents don’t suffer as her family did, embodies Erin’s desire to give back to society, which is the basis for this award,” said Dr. Flatley.

Inspired by Erin, Alyssia created a series of illustrations featuring Bug to help educate caregivers and children about infection prevention. This series debuted during the inaugural Pediatric Sepsis Week in 2019 and was turned into coloring sheets for children. This year, Alyssia added new illustrations to the series, which became a downloadable coloring book and Bug starred in her very own PSA to educate caregivers and children about sepsis.

The Erin Kay Flatley Spirit award recognizes one organization or individual each year who effectively brings Erin’s spirit to the fight against sepsis and is presented during the annual Sepsis Heroes gala. This year, Alyssia will be honored during the 9th Annual Sepsis Heroes gala on September 17, 2020. The 2020 gala will be held virtually and is free to attend.