Sepsis Education Vital for Emergency Medical Responders


February 12th, 2016

First responders play vital role in suspecting and treating sepsis.

San Diego, California — February 12, 2016 — Last month, social media exploded with news of William Mead, a young boy in the United Kingdom who died in 2015 from sepsis. William was one of thousands who were killed last year by this serious condition, but his tragic story came to light because his signs of illness were not recognized, despite his mother’s concerns. This case brought home the importance of sepsis awareness and education, especially regarding children, who can become so ill so fast.

Since this story broke, it has been getting a lot of press and pushback within the medical and political communities in the U.K., but work also needs to be done on sepsis, and pediatric sepsis, in North America too. A look at the Sepsis Alliance Faces of Sepsis page shows many stories that involve children, such as Jose Carlos (JC) Romero-Herrera, a survivor who had sepsis when he was only a few weeks old, and Andrew John McDonough, a 14-year-old who died from sepsis, after successfully battling cancer.

Everyone in the healthcare system must be watchful and mindful of the potential of sepsis in the patients they come across. While sepsis may be tricky to detect, having the mindset that sepsis is a possibility increases the chances of catching it.

Often, the first healthcare professionals that people meet in times of emergency are first responders, emergency technicians, and paramedics. They must make assessments and judgment calls that can have a significant impact on their patients’ lives. For this reason, there has been an increased push to educate those within the emergency medical system, to ensure that the responders have the knowledge and tools they need to identify and treat sepsis, as they transmit information to the receiving emergency rooms and they provide emergency care en route.

Rommie L. Duckworth, an emergency responder and educator, wrote an article that was recently published in the magazine, EMS World, titled the ABCs of Pediatric Sepsis. In the article, Duckworth tells the readers about Andrew McDonough, and how his father had never heard the word sepsis before Andrew’s death. Duckworth goes on to explain how common pediatric sepsis is in the U.S., the physiology (physical response of the body) of sepsis, why it causes so much damage, and how sepsis may be treated.

Emergency responders are a vital part of the healthcare team and this type of education reinforces their role in helping treat patients with sepsis as early as possible. According to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, between 40% and 51% of sepsis cases arrive at the hospital via ambulance.

In 2015, Duckworth was recognized as a Sepsis Hero for his hard work in educating first responders about sepsis. He is also now a member of Sepsis Alliance’s Advisory Board. His dedication to the cause has raised awareness and saved lives. As Duckworth wrote in the article, “For Andrew McDonough and the many children like him, EMS providers need to be heard and spread the word: Unrecognized sepsis kills kids.”