December 4th, 2015

Sepsis: the killer you probably know almost nothing about

I knew very little about sepsis until a dear friend of mine came down with it.

I knew the word. But I thought it meant some sort of nasty infection, and my knowledge was very vague, involving the archaic term “blood poisoning.” I have a vivid memory of the first time I ever heard that expression. When I was a young child my grandmother, who’d been born in 1884, told me the story of Calvin Coolidge’s son, who had once gotten a blister from playing tennis and then got blood poisoning and quickly died.

Needless to say, this made a deep impression on me. My guess is that my grandmother wanted to make sure I washed any boo-boos and put some mecurochrome on them.

It turns out the Calvin Coolidge Jr. story my grandmother told me was correct, as you can see from this article that tells the tale of what happened. But the author demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of the situation when he writes this, and then goes on to indicate that antibiotics would have been the answer:

Deaths from sepsis unfortunately were quite common in Coolidge’s time. Ordinary wounds, accidents, and childbirth were all ways in which bacteria could get into one’s normally sterile blood. Patients presenting with fever, low blood pressure, and an obvious site or cause of infection could be diagnosed with relative ease, but the treatment options available were minimal, and the mortality rates were high.

Actually, deaths from sepsis unfortunately are quite common in our time, too. Sepsis develops with lightening speed in situations in which the patient often isn’t even aware of the location of the infection. Certainly, even today a blister such as the one Coolidge’s son had is not usually treated with antibiotics, or effective antibiotics; we don’t need to take antibiotics for every small scrape or scratch (most of which will never be infected), and some bacteria are drug-resistant (sepsis can sometimes follow fungal, parasitic, or viral problems, too, but that’s not as common).

But even more importantly, that last sentence of the quote is still true: “Patients presenting with fever, low blood pressure, and an obvious site or cause of infection could be diagnosed with relative ease, but the treatment options available were minimal, and the mortality rates were high.” Patients with those symptoms could and should be diagnosed, but the diagnosis is sometimes missed. But even a prompt “sepsis” diagnosis of a patient with those symptoms might not save that person because by the time a patient has low blood pressure, something called septic shock is probably setting in, and multiple organ failure can occur within hours, even with the most heroic efforts known to modern medicine. Antibiotics and other medications are poured into the patient, and very often a coma is induced and a respirator connected and dialysis is commenced, but it’s often to no avail.

How many people get sepsis these days, and how many people die of it? A lot of them:

A common and devastating condition, sepsis has significant healthcare implications worldwide. An estimated 1 million cases occur in the United States annually, causing more deaths than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined. The combined economic toll approaches $17 billion.

Devastating and common indeed, and insidious in its onset, and the public is relatively unaware of its existence. It’s difficult to recognize in its early stages, when intervention matters most, and with astoundingly high mortality as it quickly progresses (and I’m talking about a matter of a day or two or even just hours) into something systemic and lethal. And survivors ordinarily have a slow and agonizing recovery with many complications.

Severe sepsis occurs when a patient with documented sepsis goes on to develop acute organ dysfunction with hypoperfusion and tissue hypoxemia. The most commonly affected organs are the kidneys, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. In some cases, neurologic or hepatic dysfunction may be the primary organ dysfunction.

Finally, the patient may develop septic shock (also called distributive shock) from volume loss in the core circulation and poor circulatory support. Typically, septic shock causes a life-threatening blood pressure drop, reduced urine output, and body temperature changes—late signs of inadequate tissue oxygenation. Unless detected and treated early, it can spiral quickly into multisystem failure and death. Severe sepsis is the most common cause of death among patients in noncoronary critical care units.

I don’t want to scare you, but I feel the need to alert you. Sepsis is “increasing in frequency, expensive to treat, and lethal, with an associated rate of death as high as 70%.”

Actually, higher if you have certain signs of multiple organ failure (which my friend has).

The problem is not actually the infection itself. The more destructive problems involve the normal inflammatory reaction to infection, reactions which then careen madly and precipitously out of control:

Normally, when bacteria or other microbes enter the human body, the immune system efficiently destroys the invaders. In sepsis the immune system goes into overdrive, and the chemicals it releases into the blood to combat the infection trigger widespread inflammation that can ravage the entire body…

In a classic systemic infection, such as a strep throat, the body’s immune response is self-limiting: the immune forces are marshaled, the battle is fought, and the army retires. Sepsis begins like a typical infection, and often it presents initially with the signs of a classic systemic infection—fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, and an elevated white blood cell count. However, in sepsis the natural checks and balances have failed. Instead of tapering off and disappearing, the inflammatory forces spread beyond the infected region.

And the body effectively and quite efficiently destroys itself. Time is of the essence. For every hour of delay in treatment, mortality rates increase 8%. Sepsis is more common in the old and debilitated, but by no means limited to them. Young people can get it, healthy people can get it, active people can get it. Recognize those signs: the person feels bad, usually has a fever but not always, has a rapid heartbeat and respiration rate, sometimes trouble breathing, and often reduced urine output. Get to a good hospital immediately. This is an enormous and critical emergency.

60 Responses to “Sepsis: the killer you probably know almost nothing about”

  1. LisaM Says:

    This is a very timely post for me. A month ago my mother spent a week in the hospital with sepsis. She had no symptoms of infection – no pain or fever at all. I spoke to her and she didn’t sound quite right so I asked my sister to check on her. My sister got there 10 minutes later to find her on the floor and incoherent. The same day a co-worker’s mother did the exact same thing. An uncle complaining of kidney stones but no symptoms of infection came close to death from sepsis. And I just spent Thanksgiving weekend at the out-of-town funeral of my 97-year old aunt who died from organ failure caused by sepsis. She too had no symptoms of infection.

    Thanks for this info, Neo.

  2. K-E Says:

    This is why my uncle, who was a doctor for many years, went on and on about avoiding surgery whenever possible. Elective surgery especially. He knew the risks of infection and sepsis.

  3. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Two members of my family have experienced septic shock. One, a young, healthy, beloved woman, developed it in conjunction with meningococcemia and, just as Neo described, went from blooming health to death’s door in a few short hours. She survived – unscathed, thank Providence and modern medicine – only because she was taken to the emergency room early on and was already being cared for when her blood pressure collapsed. My mother, in her 80s, was less fortunate. She developed precisely the symptoms Neo described in her last paragraph, plus mental confusion, which turned out to be a rapid, insidious pneumonia and sepsis. She was hospitalized and pumped full of antibiotics, briefly rallied and seemed likely to recover, but then died of a stroke caused by an interaction among the illness, the medications she was given and her pre-existing medical conditions. In effect, the sepsis killed her.

    What I took from the two experiences: if you develop fever and other symptoms that may seem like an ordinary flu or virus but you feel worse than usual, if you’re feeling really awful, and especially if you’re experiencing any changed consciousness — get the heck to a doctor or an ER, fast. Better to waste some money and medical time on a minor illness than to be far from medical help if it’s sepsis or something like it – there’s just no time to be wrong.

  4. Baklava Says:

    Wow. Thank you. One million! geez.

    Thank you again..

  5. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Neo, is your friend recovering?

  6. Wooly Bully Says:

    I had blood poisoning when I was in my twenties under circumstances very similar to Coolidge’s son. Luckily, I only had to spend a few days in the hospital being treated with antibiotics. Even though I was young and generally healthy, I might have died if it hadn’t been for antibiotics. Any puncture wound is a risk, so it’s important to take proper care of it.

  7. Cornhead Says:

    Robot shoots UV rays to kill bugs in hospitals at link below.

    And I would add, a Hillary Clinton regime kills innovations like this and in bio-tech. No doubt about it.

    http://www.xenex.com

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    Mrs Whatsit:

    No, very little chance of that, although there was a period of time when I though she might be, because there was a little improvement.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    My condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one this way.

  10. mollynh Says:

    As a retired RN I practice immune system support. Take B vitamins, have your level of Vit D checked most Americans deficient. After its vitamin work is done , extra vit D acts like a natural steroid in the body & we know steroids suppress
    inflammation. Take your daily low dose Aspirin, again it s an
    Inflammation fighter!

  11. neo-neocon Says:

    Baklava:

    The death rate among those who get severe sepsis is between 30% and 50%. If they have gone into kidney failure, the death rate is 75-80%.

  12. carl in atlanta Says:

    Timely post for me as well, and poignant: My retired former law partner (25 years together) attended a college football game at his Alma Mater on November 21 — thirteen days ago –then two days ago they admitted him to hospice care with sepsis.

    Diagnosis: Leukemia with pneumonia and now, sepsis as complications. No longer conscious and not expected to live past the weekend.

    I never got to say goodbye.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    K-E:

    Surgery is one way a person could get sepsis, but it’s by no means the only way and I don’t even think it’s the most common way. The most common way seems to be lung infection, particularly pneumonia.

  14. Frog Says:

    It is kind of amusing, medically, to read pieces like this one of Neo’s, when a medical issue is discovered and responded to with, dare I say it, startled agitation. Sepsis! It is a bad word in medicine. Has always been.

    There are some inescapable facts:
    1) We are not getting out of this life alive
    2) There are no magic answers. No sure things. Antibiotics, appropriately chosen and given in massive doses, are not certain to yield the desired result. We crave certainty in an uncertain world.

    It takes some getting used-to.

    I had as an intern, many years ago, a young previously healthy woman who’d come down with a beta-strep pneumonia (the same bug that causes the so very ordinary and mundane strep throat). We literally filled her with penicillin.
    And she died.
    Bothered me for a long time. Obviously, I have never forgotten; I can still see her. She should have lived, the penicillin should have done it. But she died.

    You get that today, you still can die.

  15. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Neo, I’m so sorry.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    I’m so glad you are AMUSED by this, from your high perch on the medical hill.

    Nothing in my post could be construed to mean that I ever was surprised that there are no magic answers, or expect sure things.

    Just to spell it out for you, because obviously you fail to understand:

    Most people are not aware of the danger signs that they might have sepsis. Even I, a fairly knowledgeable person about medical facts, was unaware of the signs, how common it is, and in particular of how quickly it can kill even a fairly healthy person, who can go from walking around seemingly okay to at death’s door in just a few hours. This post is a way to make my readers aware of those danger signs in particular, letting them know that it could mean a matter of life and death to get to medical attention quickly.

    You, of course, don’t need this information. But perhaps you can stretch your mind to understand how the non-medical peons among us might be helped by it.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Mrs Whatsit:

    Thanks.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog and others:

    By the way, a similar sort of disease process was publicized years ago by the death of Muppet inventor Jim Henson from toxic shock syndrome in 1990. I became aware of that particular disease at the time; in toxic shock syndrome, a toxin is released by the bacteria that leads to multiple organ collapse. But TSS is rare. Until recently, I was unaware that there was a much more common phenomenon that could similarly lead to multiple organ collapse and death rather quickly.

    Henson’s illness started with a cold or flu-ish symptoms that quickly led to pneumonia and TSS in an otherwise-healthy 53-year-old man.

  19. mollynh Says:

    If you need to have surgery the Best surgical outcomes occur in patients who have the highest Vitamin
    D Level onboard.
    Pay attention too to adequate *Antioxidants*. These fight free radicals. Free radicals are *trouble makers* in the body.
    They occur secondary to our metabolic processes like eating,
    Growth & repair when you are sick more of them are produced. Vit C&E scavange free rads as does ( neo avert your eyes) GREEN TEA !!!!

  20. Baklava Says:

    Neo,

    My mom nearly lost her leg after a cut on a hassick when she ran into it.

    The infection basically left her with a year’s worth of her leg recovering because it rotted from the inside so FAST!

    This post reminded me of that.

    My wife cut her foot on an ornament a few days ago and I’m immediately getting the Neosporin out and cleaning and bandaging.

  21. Frog Says:

    Neo misses my point. Which was about startled agitation as a response to a discovery
    It’s not about a view from a hill. It’s about the nature of a response..

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    Nice try, but no, I did not miss your point.

    Maybe you are unaware of what you actually said and what it conveyed.

    I was addressing several of your points.

    The first was that you are amused. Unfunny:

    It is kind of amusing, medically, to read pieces like this one of Neo’s, when a medical issue is discovered and responded to with, dare I say it, startled agitation.

    The second and third were these:

    There are some inescapable facts:
    1) We are not getting out of this life alive
    2) There are no magic answers. No sure things.

    Put it all together and you get exactly what I was responding to: snide amusement at we non-medical peons who are so startled and agitated at learning about something like SEVERE sepsis, the details of which I was not aware of before (although you, as an MD, had heard about them long ago), and the symptoms of which I am trying to get out to a still-relatively-unaware public.

    My own “startled agitation” was about that seeming unawareness of most of the public, and the desire to get the word out in hopes that it could prevent something similar from killing as many people as it does. People who fall prey to sepsis and who were not already in the hospital often don’t realize what they are dealing with until they go into septic shock. The idea is to try to get earlier treatment prior to septic shock. This could help reduce the very high mortality with this illness.

    I find your reaction of amusement—even “medical amusement”—to be rather startling, as well.

  23. Gail Finke Says:

    I know someone who died of septic shock. It was awful. He had been feeling sick and rundown for several weeks before he went to a doctor. I saw him a day or two before that and he looked abssolutely terrible. But he was young and healthy and didn’t realize how really bad he seemed, though everyone was worried about him. No cause that I am aware of was ever found. They did induce a coma to try to save his life.

  24. mollynh Says:

    One more biggy newest antioxidant *star* is turmeric !!!
    This may mitigate Alzheimer’s !!!!
    India has worlds lowest Alzheimers rate. Turmeric comes from there, used in manydishes & even drunk as a tea!
    Theory is that it discourages brain plaque. Also has same effect as Cox2 inhibitors and NO side effects.
    Anecdotally have been using it months now & my memory
    has benefitted ! Sold on the stuff !!

  25. DonS Says:

    My wife died 11 years ago from this. Started out as abdominal pain.Was diagnosed as a small bowel obstruction. She crashed during surgery. Pressure from the obstruction forced bowel toxins thru a weak spot,flooding her abdominal cavity with toxic gunk. She was in shock lung, requiring a special jet ventilator. One by one her bodies systems failed in an inexorable cascade. After eight days of the most intense ICU care I’d ever seen, the machines were withdrawn.Everything hd been done;nothing worked. I’m a retired ICU RN, and she was a retired LPN, so wed both seen a lot. This was devastating beyond anything.

  26. LisaJim Says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this. I was totally unaware of sepsis until my best friend died 4 months ago from this.

    She was a vibrant, energetic mother of 4. Her husband took her to the hospital Friday night, thinking she had severe food poisoning. She was dead by Saturday morning.

    She is greatly missed by her family and her friends.

  27. neo-neocon Says:

    I again want to express condolences to all who’ve lost someone from this devastating illness.

    I also am surprised that so many commenters have had personal experience with it, which drives home my point that it is a fairly common disease.

  28. parker Says:

    When I was a kid, one of my cousins nearly died from blood poisoning. Scary stuff.

  29. snopercod Says:

    I keep a children’s book called Great Men of Medicine on my bookshelf right above my computer. Published in 1961, it’s a group of short stories describing the men who fought the establishment and made the major advances in medicine which we now accept as “no big deal”.

    Ambrose Pare – sutering, 1537
    Edward Jenner – smallpox, 1796
    Rene Theophile Laenned – the science of diagnosis, 1819
    William Morton – anesthesia, 1844
    Louis Pasteur – bacteria, 1849
    Joseph Lister – antiseptic surgery, 1867

    There are many more, but the chapter on Joseph Lister was horrifying. In his day, the mark of a good surgeon was how bloody his smock was. They kept a role of suture thread in an inside pocket and pulled it out a button hole when needed. They NEVER washed their hands or their tools. Needless to say, in those days, surgery was pretty much a death sentence due to sepsis. Lister was almost run out of their society for wearing clean clothes, washing his hands, and sterilizing the surgical suite with carbolic acid…but his patients lived.

    After reading this book, I’m tempted to fall on my knees and give thanks for all these great men and that we live in the time we do.

  30. G6loq Says:

    Snopercod …
    Ya forgot:
    Ignaz Semmelweis
    They put him away …

  31. G6loq Says:

    As to sepsis …
    Symptoms are so diffuse unless trained, I mean really trained, you can’t really tell what is what.

    So it is.

  32. neo-neocon Says:

    G6loq:

    Actually, the symptoms are rather clear, when it’s starting to get really bad. At first it resembles a mild illness, or maybe people just feel a bit bad in a general way, or have a localized infection.

    When it’s getting severe, the most important symptoms are fast breathing, reduced urination, and confusion. Those are not diffuse, general symptoms. They are fairly specific, especially when seen in concert. Of course, the confusion can make it hard for the patient to put it all together, but people around them could connect the dots.

  33. Frog Says:

    Sepsis is a bacterial process that always has a source. An infected foot blister, in young Coolidge’s case.
    It is not a process that just comes swooping out of the blue, knocking people off left and right. Not like the 1918 flu. Sepsis is not contagious in the conventional sense.

    “Get to a good hospital immediately. This is an enormous and critical emergency.” Isn’t that agitated?

  34. J.J. Says:

    I had no idea. I’ve never known of anyone in my family or friends who died of sepsis. The number of commenters who have known someone really confirms how common it is.

    As a kid of six I cut my foot on a rock, then hiked two miles to the trailhead. The cut was filled with dirt. The doctor cleaned it thoroughly (that was very painful), gave me a tetanus shot, and packed it with sulfa (the antibiotic of the time) and bandaged it. The bandage was changed frequently with new sulfa sprinkled into the wound each time. The doctor chewed me out for being so careless. Since that time I have always been very careful about tending to even minor scratches. Polysporin is always close at hand, whether traveling of at home.

    I consider this a real public service article and will share it with all my e-mail correspondents. Thank you, Neo.

  35. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    Do you not understand what I have written? You and I often disagree, but you’re not usually THAT obtuse

    I have never said if a person has an infection they need to race to the hospital. In fact, I wrote (and please read this carefully rather than quickly):

    Sepsis develops with lightening speed in situations in which the patient often isn’t even aware of the location of the infection. Certainly, even today a blister such as the one Coolidge’s son had is not usually treated with antibiotics, or effective antibiotics; we don’t need to take antibiotics for every small scrape or scratch (most of which will never be infected), and some bacteria are drug-resistant (sepsis can sometimes follow fungal, parasitic, or viral problems, too, but that’s not as common).

    I didn’t say there was no infection; I said the patient is often not aware of the location of the infection. Surely you understand the difference. If a person is unaware that he/she has an infection, or just feels vague malaise from it and is unaware of the source of the infection, that person can still get sepsis.

    I also believe it is clear in the post that when I speak of going to the hospital immediately I am talking not about regular sepsis but about severe sepsis or septic shock, the symptoms of which I list, and are different from the symptoms of a simple infection or early sepsis. I wrote:

    …by the time a patient has low blood pressure, something called septic shock is probably setting in, and multiple organ failure can occur within hours, even with the most heroic efforts known to modern medicine.

    I quote the following information that clearly states it is describing severe sepsis and the septic shock:

    Severe sepsis occurs when a patient with documented sepsis goes on to develop acute organ dysfunction with hypoperfusion and tissue hypoxemia. The most commonly affected organs are the kidneys, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. In some cases, neurologic or hepatic dysfunction may be the primary organ dysfunction.

    Finally, the patient may develop septic shock (also called distributive shock) from volume loss in the core circulation and poor circulatory support. Typically, septic shock causes a life-threatening blood pressure drop, reduced urine output, and body temperature changes—late signs of inadequate tissue oxygenation. Unless detected and treated early, it can spiral quickly into multisystem failure and death. Severe sepsis is the most common cause of death among patients in noncoronary critical care units.

    It is after that that I wrote, towards the end of the piece, “I don’t want to scare you, but I feel the need to alert you…Recognize those signs: the person feels bad, usually has a fever but not always, has a rapid heartbeat and respiration rate, sometimes trouble breathing, and often reduced urine output. Get to a good hospital immediately. This is an enormous and critical emergency. ”

    And your response is to say sepsis isn’t contagious? When did I ever indicate it was? Never. And then you call my response “agitated”? The proper word is “urgent” and even “appropriately urgent.” If a person has those symptoms I listed (which you conveniently left out), particularly a high respiration rate and reduced urine output, the situation is potentially dire, and people need to have it checked out, pronto, because every hour lost in severe sepsis (septic shock) is associated with an 8% increase in mortality.

    Maybe you think a person should yawn when confronted with such a situation, but I think it suggests a certain urgency is in order.

    By the way, your statement that “Sepsis is a bacterial process that always has a source” is untrue. Let me correct you: “Severe sepsis is an inflammatory process that is a reaction to a bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral process that always has a source, although sometimes the source and the original site of the source are never exactly determined.”

    There. Fixed it for you.

  36. snopercod Says:

    g6loq — Ignaz Semmelweis wasn’t in this particular book. Thanks for letting me know about him.

  37. Linda F Says:

    Wow.

    I had blood poisoning as a teen. Got a cut on my foot, did not apparently clean thoroughly, but used the new spray-on bandage we’d just bought. Sprayed it a couple of times more in the next few days.

    It got horribly infected, and my foot started turning black up to the ankle. I complained to the school nurse, who didn’t even check it, but sent me back to class. I walked out of school (I must have been an ornery little bugger), made it home, and fortunately, my mother took me right to a doctor. LOTS of antibiotics, and, after a week or two, I was better.

    I had no idea how close I came to losing that foot, or my life, until years later, when I was talking to a doctor.

  38. neo-neocon Says:

    Linda F:

    It sounds as though you did not have severe sepsis, the runaway inflammatory reaction I’m writing about here. However, you certainly had a very dangerous infection that threatened the loss of your limb.

  39. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    For God’s sake, Frog. Should my family not have been “agitated” to realize that the lovely young woman who is now my daughter-in-law would have died in a matter of a few hours if not for the fact that my son, who’d never heard of either sepsis or meningococcemia – unlike you in your lordly medical wisdom – got “agitated” enough about her early symptoms to take her to the ER before the full-blown syndrome set in? Do you not understand that the person whose agitation you’re sneering at has a friend who’s dying of this condition as we write about it? Neo is trying to educate people who don’t know about this, in hopes that some people may be saved through early intervention, just as my daughter-in-law was saved, while her friend was not. Your condescension is hideous, and I feel sorry for your patients.

  40. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    G6loq, unfortunately, you’re right that even with training, sepsis is hard to diagnose in its early stages. I took my mother to the doctor on the morning of the day her sepsis began. At that point her primary symptoms were fatigue and confusion. After what I truly believe was a careful, caring and exacting examination, the doctor sent us home, advising me to take her to the ER if she got worse. Hours later, she did, I did, and she was diagnosed – but by the time her symptoms were clear, she was already desperately ill.

  41. mf Says:

    My father got it from a dog bite. Had no clue when the doctor told me he could have died. He was in the hospital for a week. He was elderly meaning his immune system was not all that strong. Seems like a dog or animal bite is a common vector:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=Sepsis+dog+bite&tbs=li:1&complete=0

  42. lee Says:

    I knew someone who died from sepsis many years ago. I worked with her daughter. She was fine on Monday, she thought, but by Saturday, she was dead. That scared the heck out of me. I can’t remember what led to the infection. But it was a week of hell.

    I also know a young man who recently survived a bout with sepsis — came about from a tooth infection. Spent a long time in the hospital. He was only about 25. But he’s doing fine now.

    My dog developed a perforated ulcer and was diagnosed with peritonitis. (She had been taking metacam long term. If I had known, I would not have given it to her.) Peritonitis can lead easily to sepsis. I went ahead and made the decision to repair the perforated ulcer — the peritoneal lavage had actually tested negative for bacteria, so I figured there was a chance. I also knew if if she developed sepsis, that was it for her — for a dog, as much as I love her, it would not have been a battle worth fighting. The survival rate for sepsis among domestic house pets is less than 10%. And if she did survive, there was a high probability that her artificial hip would irreparably fail.

    This was four years ago. She’s still around, and asking me to take her for a walk right now…

  43. mollynh Says:

    Sympathies to all of you who lost loved ones to this.

  44. Beverly Says:

    This will keep you all awake nights: Frontline’s frightening documentary “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria,” about the worldwide scourge of Gram-negative bacteria that nothing in our arsenal can kill. Riveting:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/hunting-the-nightmare-bacteria/

    Our aunt nearly died after a knee replacement — MRSA — and was on intravenous antibiotics for eight weeks.

    I don’t know if these bacteria can cause sepsis[?], but they’re lethal, too.

  45. Beverly Says:

    Neo, everyone: I’m so sorry you have all suffered from this. Truly dreadful. And thank you, Neo, for the information. I’ll pass it on to all my kith and kin. Hugs, Beverly

  46. Francesca Says:

    Well! This might have been merely an interesting, helpful article EXCEPT that I have surgery scheduled for this coming Thursday! I already know that hospitals are riddled with bacteria and viruses, but this article and the posts with examples have about destroyed my peace of mind.

    With that, I will say, “Good night.” 😉

  47. PatD Says:

    Thanks for the info.

    I suffered a pulmonary embolism without knowing it. Six months later I got pneumonia. Didn’t realize I had a problem until I coughed up blood on my way out the door to do a 20 mile run. I’d been hurting a bit before but I thought I’d sprained my ribs, because that what was the pain felt like.

    The symptom I ignored was the feeling I was only firing on three cylinders instead of four. This happened after a horrible flight from Hawaii to Ohio. But a marathon runner doesn’t really notice that, except on repeated hill runs.

    Subsequently, I learned that endurance athletes with low heart rates are vulnerable to pulmonary embolisms on long flights or drives.

    Lesson learned: If it feels off, get it checked.

  48. CV Says:

    Neo, I am so sorry to hear about your friend, and you are doing a great service in providing this information. It happened to my elderly father a few years ago. He and my mom were on an overnight trip for a class reunion and my dad became very sick, very quickly in the hotel room. Because he has had various heart problems my mom is always on red alert and hustled him to the nearest emergency room. He was admitted and spent days fighting off sepsis and thankfully is still with us today. But if he hadn’t been able to get to a nearby hospital quickly it would have been a different story. My prayers for your friend.

  49. Sergey Says:

    Frog, sepsis not always is a bacterial process, it can be triggered by viral infection as well. Essentially, it is a generalized inflammatory response to alien antigen – bacterial or not. The 1918 flu was so deadly exactly because it quite often resulted in sepsis, just as ebola infection. Antihistamine therapy is needed to prevent septic shock, the main killer leading to poly-organ failure. There is a need for dialysis and blood sorbtion which can be done only in hospital, and not every hospital has such equipment. Time is crucial, histamine shock develops in minutes.

  50. sdferr Says:

    One good thing about sepsis, it seems to have killed Reinhard Heydrich about a week after four brave Czechs attempted to assassinate him in Operation Anthropoid.

  51. neo-neocon Says:

    Francesca:

    Good luck with your surgery. The vast majority go just fine.

  52. carl in atlanta Says:

    My former partner – the one I mentioned yesterday – just died from sepsis, two weeks to the day after he attended the football game I described, and 3 or 4 days after the sepsis was diagnosed.
    Thank God for hospice care; the subject is depressing but they do a great job of relieving [physical] pain.

  53. Francesca Says:

    Thanks, Neo.

  54. Ymarsakar Says:

    Essential oils for first aid. Winterleaf, peppermint, melaleuca, eucalyptus. Last 3 internal as well as external application. Well, there’s a lot of other stuff, like drinking a lot of water, doing chi gong, and using breath controls to regulate internal body functions.

    Regulating the body consciously or not, and preventing diseases is a lot easier than trying to fix a problem once it gets into the critical stages later on.

  55. The Bookworm Beat 12-12-15 — the “hopeful pessimist” open thread Says:

    […] People in the old days knew all about sepsis. I knew about it because Rupert Brookes died from an infected mosquito bite. Agatha Christie also wrote a very clever pre-antiobiotic mystery that involved the murderer inducing sepsis in an intended victim. But sepsis doesn’t happen nowadays, right? Wrong, very wrong: […]

  56. The Bookworm Beat 12-12-15 — the “hopeful pessimist” open thread | H2o Positivo Says:

    […] People in the old days knew all about sepsis. I knew about it because Rupert Brookes died from an infected mosquito bite. Agatha Christie also wrote a very clever pre-antiobiotic mystery that involved the murderer inducing sepsis in an intended victim. But sepsis doesn’t happen nowadays, right? Wrong, very wrong: […]

  57. Teripittman Says:

    My husband had sepsis, while being treated for pneumonia. His kidneys failed and they put him on dialysis. But it was really the pneumonia that destroyed his lungs that killed him.

    And at the same time, my now husbands wife was in the hospital with lung cancer. She also came down with sepsis. And it was primarily the lung cancer that killed her. I guess it’s easier to diagnose sepsis if they are already in the hospital. It just adds another horror to deal with.

    I’m sorry about the loss of your friend.

  58. neo-neocon Says:

    Terripitman:

    Thank you. Sorry for your loss. My friend’s lungs were the problem in the end, too.

  59. liberty wolf Says:

    I am so sorry about your friend Neo.

    I had one friend who had this and she is OK but was in an isolated ward in the hospital. I don’t think she entirely knew how serious it was, that she had a stronger chance of dying than of living, and I didn’t tell her either. But she knew it was dire. She made it, thank goodness. But it was close.

    Thank you for this info as I did not know as much as I do now. It is good to be aware.

  60. neo-neocon Says:

    liberty wolf:

    I’m really glad your friend pulled through. It’s a nasty, nasty illness. I really hadn’t known much about it before this happened, either, and I consider myself fairly medicine-literate.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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