Meet the Sepsis Heroes from previous years:


Jay Towers, a radio and TV personality in Detroit, almost lost his father to sepsis in November of 2017. Jay immediately took action to spread sepsis awareness. Working with Sepsis Alliance, he shared his father’s story on his popular morning radio show and with his loyal social media following. On Giving Tuesday, he told his father’s story on Fox 2 News in Detroit to help raise funds for Sepsis Alliance. Since then, Jay has been a passionate and active sepsis awareness advocate.

UM-PULSE, the University of Michigan Post ICU Longitudinal Survivor Experience clinic, is one of just a few clinics worldwide working to aid patient recovery after ICU discharge and reduce hospital readmissions through a comprehensive, multidisciplinary patient care approach. Sepsis is the leading cause of hospital readmissions with 19% of people hospitalized with sepsis needing to be re-hospitalized within 30 days. UM-PULSE’s innovative approach is aimed at significantly decreasing hospital readmissions, including readmission for sepsis patients.

Rooks County Health Center is a 20-bed Critical Access Hospital in rural Plainville, Kansas, which is making great strides in improving sepsis treatment and outcomes for patients in their area. According to the University of Kansas Medical Center, mortality rates for sepsis and septic shock in Kansas are as high as 50%, which is greater than mortality rates for heart attack (9.6%) or stroke (9.3%).

Jill Kogan Blake is a sepsis survivor who works tirelessly to educate her community about sepsis. Jill hosts Aquamania! Swim for Sepsis Awareness, an annual sepsis awareness swimming event that has raised over $50,000 for sepsis awareness programs, including funds for the production of Sepsis: First Responders, a sepsis training video designed for emergency medical personnel.

Sharon Hansen is a critical care nurse educator with a personal connection to sepsis. In 2003, Sharon’s husband survived sepsis. He was left with post-sepsis syndrome, as are up to 50% of sepsis survivors. Post-sepsis syndrome is a life-altering condition that can be mentally and physically debilitating. Now, Sharon is dedicated to educating nurses and health professionals about sepsis and post-sepsis syndrome.

Erin Kay Flatley Spirit Award – Angelica Hale 

Before singing her way to the finals of America’s Got Talent, Angelica Hale survived sepsis when she was just 4 years old. Now a rising star, Angelica is using her voice to help others survive sepsis.


Children’s Hospital Association – The voice of more than 220 children’s hospitals around the country that leads an innovative pediatric sepsis campaign implementing diagnostic and treatment protocols.

Andre Vovan – Critical care specialist and creator of the Hoag Hospital Presbyterian, and St. Joseph Hospital system. His advocacy for improved sepsis outcomes and his leadership has helped the health system decrease sepsis mortality and shorten hospital stays, which reduces overall healthcare costs and is better for patients.

Sue Sirianni and Maria Palleschi – Two nurse practitioners who work at Tenet’s Detroit Medical Center. In addition to their clinical work, Sue and Maria are research partners dedicated to raising sepsis awareness. They organized a 5K event in Michigan, which raised over $13,000 in its first year. They have hosted a number of other events to increase sepsis awareness in the community.

Sue and Jay Stull – Sue Stull is a sepsis survivor. To save Sue’s life, doctors had to amputate both arms and legs, leaving Sue to learn how to navigate life again in a very different manner. Jay, Sue’s husband, supports Sue as they work together to raise awareness of sepsis and its aftermath.

Jon Glaudemans – Former managing director of Manatt Health solutions, Jon has been working to help Sepsis Alliance grow strategic partnerships. A sepsis survivor himself, Jon didn’t realize the impact of what happened to him until he got to know Sepsis Alliance and learn more about sepsis.

Erin Kay Flatley Spirit Award – Tony and Liz Galbo

Their daughter Gabby died from sepsis in 2012. She was five years old. Gabby had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which originates from a tick bite and can lead to sepsis if left untreated, as was the case with Gabby. The shock of losing a child to an illness that is in many cases preventable spurred the Galbos into action. Through their tireless efforts, knocking on doors, participating in awareness events, giving interviews, and calling representatives, the Galbos met their first goal. In August 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed new legislation that mandated protocols for sepsis at all Illinois hospitals. This law has been dubbed Gabby’s law.


Martin Doerfler, MD – Associate Chief Medical Officer at Northwell Health and a leading advocate for sepsis awareness and education.

Lisa Bartlett (Davis) – Sepsis advocate who started community awareness events in Illinois and Colorado after the death of her husband to sepsis.

Tom Ahrens, PhD – Nurse educator and leader in educating nurses on sepsis best practices.

Hillary Spangler – Sepsis survivor who has gone on to medical school and is an advocate for sepsis education and awareness.

Kennedy Health – A hospital system in NJ that has demonstrated a system-wide commitment to improving treatment and outcomes from sepsis.

Erin Kay Flatley Spirit Award – Audrey Leishman and the Begin Again Foundation


Kevin Tracey, MD – President and CEO of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and President and Professor of the Elmezzi Graduate School of Molecular Medicine;

Sam Bass – The first officially licensed artist of NASCAR, and sepsis survivor;

Rom Duckworth – Emergency responder and award-winning educator;

Leo Araujo – Sepsis awareness advocate and founder of Fantastic Fun Day fundraising and awareness event;

Susan Irick – Sepsis survivor, nurse, and sepsis and pneumonia disease manager at Northeast Georgia Medical Center;

Carolinas HealthCare System – Developed a Sepsis Collaborative to improve recognition of sepsis and reduce mortality.


Every Mother Counts – A non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother.

Intermountain Healthcare – A healthcare system that developed a sepsis checklist for providers, which cut sepsis mortality rates.

Jeff and Helene Zehnder – The couple behind the creation of the Raleigh, NC, Step On Sepsis Inaugural 5K Road Race & Walk, which was held this past March. Helene is also a nurse.

Laura Messineo – A nurse who is a driving force for sepsis education in her health system. Aside from working to improve sepsis care, Laura has traveled to Washington, DC, to advocate for better sepsis awareness.


Gary Black – Gary Black is a sepsis survivor and author of “Gyroscope: A Survival of Sepsis.” Gary was one of SA’s first Faces of Sepsis. On his website, Gary describes the book: “GYROSCOPE reveals my entire harrowing experience of cascading to the edge of death from severe sepsis. It explores my mental, physical, and spiritual traumas and triumphs from onset to recovery. It also includes 52 illustrations that express my pain, anguish, dreams, delirium, and personal awakenings, a brief medical glossary, and research references.”

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State – Governor Cuomo is the first U.S. politician to directly address the issue of sepsis and the importance of sepsis awareness. Gov. Cuomo announced that New York State will be the first state to require that all hospitals adopt best practices for the early identification and treatment of the disease.

GE Healthcare Education Services – The education arm of GE Healthcare has been in a leader in raising awareness about sepsis among healthcare professionals. Their push for sepsis education in their Nursing Library of Online Education, including their video Communication: Sounding the Alarm for Sepsis, has allowed nurses from all over to benefit from information that they may otherwise not be able to access. GE Healthcare also provides scientific posters and professional education sessions about sepsis at professional conferences, such as at the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. Since nurses are the front-line healthcare professionals, this education and awareness is invaluable.

David Goldhill – Author of “Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father–and How We Can Fix It”David, who is president and CEO of GSN (the Gameshow Network), lost his father to sepsis and after learning more about what happened, he wrote his book. “Catastrophic Care.” David gives many talks about issues regarding health care and he begins his talks by telling the audience how his father died. In March, David was the keynote speaker at a major conference for healthcare journalists – people who need to hear the word “sepsis.”

Mark Lambert – Former President of Sepsis Alliance. Mark was the first president of Sepsis Alliance and was instrumental in helping shape and guide Sepsis Alliance. Mark not only helped put together the team that works behind the scenes, but he was a major force behind developing SA’s mission. He also helped build the board of directors, spearheaded the creation of Sepsis Alliance’s first video, Sepsis: Emergency, and brought together the Merinoff Symposium 2010: Sepsis – Speaking with One Voice – an important turning point in how healthcare professionals around the world viewed sepsis.

Surviving Sepsis Campaign – The Surviving Sepsis Campaign (SSC) was formed in 2002, a joint effort between the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine. The SSC has since developed evolving guidelines for the management of severe sepsis and shock, something that had not previously existed. The SSC is committed to collecting data from 10,000 hospitals worldwide, to apply the guidelines to 100 percent of patients in whom the diagnosis is suspected, and developing a strategy to improve the care of septic patients in under-resourced areas. Recently, study findings showed that this is resulting improvement in sepsis care.


Jennifer Ludwin – Jennifer has recounted many times her story of survival against a disease that claimed her fingers, as well as her legs below the knees. She is one of our Faces of Sepsis. Jennifer recently completed a dual degree master’s program at The Ohio State University and currently works as a Graduate Teaching Associate in the Human Development and Family Science Department. Jennifer has participated in the video Sepsis: Emergency, been a guest on the Rachael Ray show, told her story at TEDx, and has spoken to countless groups about the seriousness of sepsis and the need for awareness.


Jennifer MacDermott – Jennifer graduated from Arizona State University with her Bachelor of Science in nursing in May 2005 and Master of Science in nursing in 2009. She has worked as an RN in both medical and surgical intensive care units (ICU) and is currently working as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Surgical ICU at Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University. Jennifer has cared for patients with sepsis who were admitted to the ICU for medical and surgical conditions and saw that sepsis can affect any patient. After learning about how lives can be saved with proper identification and treatment, Jennifer became involved with Sepsis Alliance and co-founded the Spike Out Sepsis (SOS) sand volleyball tournament to assist in raising awareness about sepsis.

Alicia Rendon – Alicia graduated from The Ohio State University with her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) in June 2004. She worked as a RN in the Progressive Care Unit (PCU) at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for 3 years. She then transferred to the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU), where she worked with many patients who had sepsis. She saw the negative impact sepsis had on patients and their families, but also learned that with proper detection and rapid treatment sepsis could be prevented, thus saving lives. Thanks to Dr. Jim O’Brien’s passion and dedication to sepsis, Alicia joined the Sepsis Alliance team and was one of the co-founders of the Spike Out Sepsis (SOS) volleyball tournament fundraiser. She continues to be on the planning committee for the annual event. Alicia is now a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) at Mercy Primary Care in Willard, Ohio, where she hopes to continue to raise awareness about sepsis to healthcare providers and the community.

Jennifer Anderson – Jennifer Anderson lost her sister, Erin Flatley, to sepsis 10 years ago. Following Erin’s death, Jennifer began in 2003 the BUGS Classic annual fishing tournament to help raise awareness of the disease and funds for the Erin K. Flatley Foundation. The event takes place every May in Dunedin, Florida.Jennifer has been steering the tournament from the beginning and is being honored for her hard work and dedication to sepsis awareness. Read about Jennifer in her own words here.

Northwell Health – The North Shore-LIJ Health System was chosen to receive a Sepsis Heroes Award in recognition for its leadership role in improving care for sepsis patients across all of their hospitals. NS-LIJ’s public commitment and dedication to sepsis victims serves as a model for other organizations, both here and across the globe. NS-LIJ also organized and hosted the Merinoff Symposium in 2010, a ground-breaking international conference on sepsis which helped spur the formation of the Global Sepsis Alliance, the organization behind World Sepsis Day.

Spike Out Sepsis – Sepsis Alliance chose to recognize Spike Out Sepsis because of the annual event’s unique approach to raising sepsis awareness and funds for Sepsis Alliance. Many people help organize and run this event every year and each and every participant plays a valuable role in its success. To honor Spike Out Sepsis, SA is giving awards to two co-founders, Jennifer MacDermott and Alicia Rendon. Both Jennifer and Alicia have seen first-hand what sepsis does.