2020 Erin K. Flatley Spirit Award Winner: Alyssia Aguilar

Alyssia AguilarEach year, Sepsis Alliance awards the Erin K. Flatley Spirit Award to a deserving individual who exemplifies the spirit of Erin, the daughter of Sepsis Alliance founder, Carl Flatley. Erin died in 2002 at the age of 23, because of sepsis following an elective surgery. This year, Sepsis Alliance is pleased to give this special award to Alyssia Aguilar, who lost her infant son, Mark Anthony II, to sepsis.

Alyssia became involved in promoting sepsis awareness when she discovered Sepsis Alliance, which helped her learn about sepsis and what had happened to her son. “I had no idea what sepsis was,” Alyssia said. As an artist, she found that her talent and skill were good outlets for her to express her grief, while remembering her son and helping others and she offered to help out however she could.

Her first project with Sepsis Alliance was the creation of Bug, a cartoon ladybug that has since been featured in various educational materials, print and video, geared towards children. Carl had called Erin his Bug, and he wanted to use this endearment in some way to help children understand sepsis. With Alyssia’s art, Carl’s idea became reality. Explaining a serious topic like sepsis to a child can be intimidating for a parent or guardian, but using Bug to share this information can make it easier. “I hope we can do more with Bug,” Alyssia said. “I would love to see Bug evolve, with friends, and more.”

Alyssia doesn’t stop with her art though. She also shares information about sepsis in her community. Earlier this year, she received word that someone who saw one of the Sepsis Alliance brochures distributed by Alyssia recognized the signs in her mother-in-law and they were able to seek help before it progressed too far.

Losing Mark Anthony II was devastating, but he remains part of his twin, Selena, who will learn – along with her sister Emma – all about Mark Anthony II and his legacy as they grow up. Her work will help with this.

Financial contributions to help support sepsis education are always appreciated but lack of funds – particularly in these uncertain times – shouldn’t keep anyone from becoming sepsis advocates. People can spread sepsis awareness and become sepsis advocates by spending time sharing information or they can use their talents, as Alyssia did. Her contributions with Bug are priceless. When asked how she felt when she received the news of the award, Alyssia said she was shocked and overwhelmed. Alyssia was having a down day when she received the phone call from Sepsis Alliance Executive Director, Thomas Heymann, and the call picked her back up again. “It really touched us,” she said. “I had no idea we were going to get something like that.” Alyssia said everything she does is in Mark Anthony’s honor, so he will be remembered. “We also have to show our daughters that he is not forgotten.”

Alyssia lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband Mark and her two daughters Selena and Emma.