Sepsis Survivor Takes Up Nursing to Raise Awareness

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Katie Dutton

As a student nurse in her first year of training, Katie Dutton had already made good on her decision to become a nurse in order to raise awareness of sepsis. Katie arranged an awareness day that was so oversubscribed that another one is already being planned.

After being hospitalized for a kidney infection, Katie developed sepsis after her IV line became infected. Within a week, her temperature had spiraled to 40.1ºC (104ºF) and she was hallucinating. Sepsis is often missed because the symptoms develop so quickly and are often confused with less serious conditions, and in Katie’s case doctors also initially failed to spot her condition, “The last thing I remember was waiting in a theatre thinking I was going to die. That’s the last thing I remember until I got better. My family was at my bedside in the ICU.” Katie said. Her parents were told that she had a 15% chance of survival but she pulled through and made a full recovery.

As a result of this experience, the 27-year-old decided to change careers in order to raise nurses’ awareness of sepsis and thereby saving lives. Last year she started training as a nurse at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK (DMU). “I was determined not to let this beat me and to make an example of it, and make sure we’re lowering the number of sepsis cases. I wanted to help stop that happening to other patients, and hopefully inspire nurses to really read up about sepsis and to have it at the forefront of their mind,” Katie explained.

“Sepsis is often missed because the symptoms develop so quickly and are often confused with less serious conditions”

Hutton didn’t delay in getting on with her mission and, together with a friend Kylie-Ann Johnson, started organizing a sepsis awareness day at DMU for January 2018. They were supported by the Leicester Royal Infirmary’s A&E emergency team and by the end of the day more than 100 students were trained as “Sepsis Champions” to spot the signs of this potentially fatal complication and the steps they could take to speed up diagnosis. While they had planned the event only for their student group there were so many applications that a second day is already being planned for later in the year. They are hoping to also make it a regular event at DMU. According to her Twitter account, Katie will also be speaking about sepsis education for student nurses at a major Patient Safety Congress in July.

Sepsis develops when the body has a systemic inflammatory response to an existing infection. Signs include severe fever and chills, slurred speech and mental confusion, muscle pain, a rapid pulse and breathing, hypotension and decreased urinary output.

The exact incidence of sepsis is unknown as most deaths have been reported in terms of the patient’s original infection. It is estimated that worldwide there are around 30 million episodes of sepsis per year and about six million deaths – and the incidence appears to be increasing. However, there is a lack of awareness about the condition among the public, health care workers and policy makers resulting in delayed treatment being a major cause of preventable death and disability.

Recommended Actions for Reducing the Global Burden of Sepsis.
Recommended Actions for Reducing the Global Burden of Sepsis. via: nejm.org

This situation prompted the World Health Assembly to adopt a resolution in 2017 urging member states to take specific actions to reduce the burden of sepsis through better prevention, diagnosis, and management of the condition. “Encouraging patients, relatives, and health care workers to ask “Could this be sepsis?” save lives.”

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