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New take on sepsis awareness

This World Sepsis Day, Queensland Health is launching a new video series to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of this potentially deadly condition.

Dr John Wakefield, Deputy Director-General Clinical Excellence Division said the video series features four patients who have experienced sepsis themselves or through a loved one.

“In 2017/18, over 20,000 people were treated for sepsis in Queensland hospitals – and over 2,000 died from the disease,” he said.

“Anyone can develop sepsis, but infants, children, the elderly and people with poor immune systems are most at risk.

“I’m grateful to the patients and their families for sharing their stories and helping to raise awareness of sepsis.”

“Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the bodies’ response to infection damages its own tissues and organs.

“It is a medical emergency which can lead to organ failure and death if not identified and treated early.

“Most people don’t know the signs and symptoms of sepsis, and the earlier it’s caught, the better the chances of a full recovery.”

“The video series shows how much symptoms can vary between cases, which is why it’s vital to know what to look out for and when to seek help. If in doubt ask, could this be sepsis?”  

Sepsis can occur from any infection.

Adults should seek urgent medical help if they are experiencing:

  • rapid breathing;
  • a rapid heart rate;
  • confusion, slurred speech or disorientation;
  • fever or shivering;
  • muscle pain;
  • not passing urine;
  • discoloured skin.

Sepsis can progress more rapidly in young children and infants. Seek urgent medical care if your child is experiencing:

  • convulsions or fits;
  • rapid breathing;
  • discoloured skin, is very pale or bluish;
  • a rash that doesn’t fade when you press it;
  • fever, or very low temperature;
  • not passing urine (or no wet nappy) for several hours;
  • vomiting repeatedly;
  • not feeding.

Patient profile – Sadie Angus

It never crossed Katherine Angus’s mind that a typical bike accident for four-year-old daughter Sadie would lead to a serious infection.

“Sadie’s foot got stuck in the wheel of a bike, and she got a pretty bad graze on the surface,” Katherine said.

“Two days later Sadie vomited out of the blue, with no other related symptoms, but I thought it was probably a good idea to see the GP the next day.

“You could see the bruising from the crash injury, but what we didn’t know was that was the beginning of the infection that caused sepsis.

“The next day at kindy, her teachers noticed she had a really high temperature and had become lethargic, so my mum picked her up and we went to the Children’s Hospital.

“She was breathing really quickly and had become quite floppy. She also had a little bit of a rash on her chest.

“I knew when I first picked her up she was quite sick.

“The doctor showed me her chart and I could see a lot of her vital signs were well outside the normal range.”

Sadie spent eight days in hospital and had to have surgery to get on top of the infection.

Patient profile - Samantha Olson

New mother Samantha Olson never thought she would be back in hospital just weeks after giving birth to her son.

“I was having hot and cold sweats – at one stage I thought my son had peed on me as he was lying on my tummy and my belly button filled with sweat,” Samantha said.

“I was feeling nauseous and gross. I never felt like I made it back from having my son, I never felt 100 per cent in the three weeks before it got serious and I called the ambulance.

“The doctors told me if I had waited a few more hours I could have died.”

Following the ordeal, Samantha spent two weeks in intensive care and another 5 days in recovery.

“Something told me I needed to call the ambulance, and I would definitely advise anyone to do that, cause as soon as you have that feeling where you need to do it – just do it because worst case scenario, it’s nothing and you get to stay home, but best case scenario, they save your life.”

Patient profile – Mia Wilkinson

In as little as two days, four-year-old Mia was fighting for her life.

Mia’s mother Amy Wilkinson thought her daughter had gastro after she threw up on a Friday afternoon after complaining she felt ill earlier in the day.

“On Saturday morning Mia still wasn’t well so we took her to the doctor and they listened to her belly,” Amy said.

“They confirmed its gastro, she’s got a churning belly, and to take her home and let her rest.

“At 2pm on Saturday she couldn’t focus, she couldn’t look at us in the eye and it was like she wasn’t comprehending we were even there.

“We took her to the hospital and she couldn’t stand on the scale. They checked her over and thought it was influenza B so they said go home, she needs rest.

“At 5 pm on Sunday I checked on her just before dinner time and I noticed a really light purple rash on her legs.

“I took her back into the hospital, and a nurse in the emergency waiting area walked past and saw Mia and she motioned to us to come straight through.

“It was when they were checking her they said your daughter is very, very unwell.

“They had to intubate her and put her on life support to keep her alive. Her heart was struggling so much and sedating her made it struggle more that it stopped – they had to CPR her back that night.

“She was on life support for six days, and then in ICU for another couple of days before we were moved to a ward room.”

Mia survived, but she is now a quad-amputee and spent nine weeks in hospital recovering.

“You know your child and we knew she wasn’t well. If you’re concerned, go back to the hospital and say, could it be sepsis,” Amy said.

Patient profile – Stacey Kendall

Stacey started to experience symptoms five days after giving birth to her baby girl.

“I was very fatigued, and very pale. I had passed a couple of blood clots and the next morning I had uncontrollable shivers,” Stacey said.  

A midwife was visiting for a regular check in with the newborn baby, and her intuition saved Stacey’s life.

“It was at that point I was saying I can’t stop my heart,” Stacey said.

“Both my husband and the midwife were quite confused, they said why are you trying to stop your heart, and I said it’s just racing.

“It was then the nurse said, I’ve seen this before – I think you’ve got sepsis.”

Stacey was in hospital for five days.

“I am so lucky my midwife had come to the house and thought that I could have sepsis. They did say if I had gone to sleep I might not have woken up,” Stacey said.


Media contact:            3708 5376

Last updated: 12 September 2018