Sepsis is the number one killer in many hospitals, and most Americans don't know what it is

DUNEDIN, Fla. - Sepsis is the number one cause of death in many hospitals, but most Americans probably don't know what it is.  Now a local doctor is on a mission to make sure you know the signs and seriousness of sepsis.

Dr. Carl Flatley is prepping for a medical presentation, inspired by the loss of his daughter, Erin.  "She had a routine outpatient surgery, a hemorrhoidectomy, on a Thursday.  She was dismissed Friday.  We took her back on Sunday and she died Tuesday from something I'd never heard of."

Despite decades in the medical field, Dr. Flatley had never heard of sepsis, a toxic response to infection. "I was with her when she died.  "I just didn't want it to happen to anyone else."

Dr. Flatley formed an organization called The Sepsis Alliance and began gathering facts and spreading information. "There are 258,000 deaths a year from this, and that doesn't count the people who are disabled and lose their arms and legs from this."

Anyone can get sepsis - it can be caused by bacteria, viruses, a fungus or parasite.  "You can get it from any infection.  I mean, you can get it from a cut on a cuticle, piercing your tongue, car wreck.  Any kind of infection."

The good news is it can be treated. "You have an 80 percent chance of survival if you get antibiotics and fluid within the first hour it's recognized."

The bad news - it kills quickly. 

If there's one thing Dr. Flatley wants you to take away from this story, it's this:  "Even if you can't explain sepsis, if you say ‘I'm concerned about sepsis,' every time you go to the hospital.  If you have anything done, you tell the doctor you're concerned about sepsis.  That cues them to pay attention to what's going on. "

He thinks a lack of attention to his daughter's symptoms led to her death. "It still kills me today."

What signs should you look for? Dr. Flatley says remember this:  you see the bug run home. Take the first letters:

U for low urine output,

C for confusion,

T for temperature either high or low,

B for blood pressure either high or low,

R for respiration above 20, and

H for heart rate above 90

For more information, find The Sepsis Alliance on Facebook or Dr. Flatley's blog at

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