A little more than a year ago, Jana Watts, MD, found herself a patient in critical condition in her place of work. Jana walked into the Mission Hospital emergency room and was on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) less than twenty-four hours later suffering from sepsis. As her condition deteriorated, every tool that could be used to save her life was in play. This included Jana’s husband, Terrence, and their daughter, Gaby, as well as Gaby’s violin teacher who joined Terrence in a violin-guitar duet for Jana in the ICU.
Last month, exactly one year later, Jana walked into the ICU to thank the staff that kept her alive during her battle with sepsis. This allowed the team to see that all their hard work, the long, stressful and often heart-breaking hours of being ICU nurses, resulted in a healthy mom who has a chance to be with her family, raise her child and return to work at Mission Health.
Jana was one of the lucky ones. Every year in the US more than 1.7 million adults get sepsis, and 270,000 of them die—that’s one person every two minutes. After almost two months in the ICU, hospital and rehabilitation, Jana was able to go home. Almost a year later, she had returned to work at Mission Health.
“Sepsis is the result of a systemic inflammatory response to an infection of any sort, whether it is pneumonia, a skin infection, a urinary tract infection or other infection,” explained James Bates, MD, a Mission Health hospitalist. “What differentiates sepsis from an uncomplicated infection is the presence of organ failure. For this reason, sepsis is a medical emergency and requires time-sensitive treatment. It is one of the most dangerous and is the most expensive condition that our healthcare system as a nation faces.”
Mission Health has dedicated teams and committed resources and interventions to recognize sepsis early and treat it. One of these resources, a care process model, developed under the leadership of Shannon Dowler, MD, alerts providers to the possibility of early sepsis even sooner in the outpatient setting.
“Mission Health has a multidisciplinary team of professionals including doctors, nurses, nursing educators, case managers, among other disciplines that has been working to improve early recognition and treatment of sepsis,” said Dr. Bates. “In recent years through our efforts we have streamlined the process and the results we are seeing are very positive.”
As a patient, there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of getting sepsis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a patient with sepsis might have one or more of the following signs or symptoms:
– Confusion or disorientation
– Shortness of breath
– High heart rate
– Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
– Extreme pain or discomfort
– Clammy or sweaty skin
If you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not improving or getting worse, immediately seek medical care. The CDC offers these tips for preventing sepsis:
– Talk to your doctor or nurse about steps you can take to prevent infections.
– Take good care of chronic conditions and get recommended vaccines.
– Practice good hygiene, such as handwashing, and keeping cuts clean until healed.
– Know the signs and symptoms of sepsis.
– Act fast. Get medical care immediately.
Jana Watts, MD, is a loving wife and mother and a family medicine physician and clinical leader for Mission My Care Plus Candler. James Bates, MD, is a hospitalist with Mission Health. Shannon Dowler, MD, is a family physician and the chief of community medicine and ambulatory health for Mission Health.