The tragic death of 12-year-old Rory Staunton from sepsis has spurred his parents, Ciaran and Orlaith, to educate the public about the grave dangers of this little-known condition.
Rory was diving for a ball in gym class when he sustained a very normal looking cut on his arm. Rather than sending Rory to the school nurse, his gym teacher simply applied two bandages to the wound and moved on with class. The gym teacher did not even stop to clean the wound first, a fatal misstep which would cause the young boy to lose his life in just a few days.
Later that same day, Rory began to feel general pain, and by the next morning had a fever of 104 degrees, was vomiting and had pain in his leg. His pediatrician diagnosed him with a stomach bug and sent him to the hospital to receive some fluids. A visit to NYU Langone Medical Center resulted in Rory getting some fluids to treat what the doctors saw as dehydration and an upset stomach, before sending him home with a prescription for anti-nausea medicine and advice to take Tylenol to treat the fever.
The next day, Rory was in even worse condition. After a call to the pediatrician, Rory’s parents brought him back to the hospital where the doctors admitted him to the ICU and told his parents he was close to death from septic shock due to bacteria that got into his bloodstream from the cut on his arm.
After bravely fighting for his life for two more days, Rory passed away in the hospital.
Sepsis occurs when harmful bacteria enter the bloodstream causing the body to release chemicals to fight the bacteria, which can lead to inflammation and ultimately organ failure. Sepsis kills one-third of the 26 million people it affects every year and is the leading cause of death of children around the world. Approximately 258,000 Americans die from sepsis every year.
In the aftermath of Rory’s death, his parents started The Rory Staunton Foundation, which aims to reduce the amount of sepsis-related deaths. They have already helped pass legislation in New York that requires all hospitals to adopt sepsis protocols. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois are following suit.
Sepsis is completely curable but must be caught early. It can be difficult to diagnose as many of its early symptoms can be confused with less serious ailments, such as fever, extreme bodily pain, clamminess, disorientation and shortness of breath. The first step in stopping deaths from sepsis is knowing how to identify sepsis, which the Stauntons are working toward.
According to sepsis.org, every cut, scrape, or break in the skin can allow bacteria to enter your body that could cause an infection. For this reason, it’s essential that all wounds be cleaned as quickly as possible and be kept clean, following these simple first aid steps:
- Always wash your hands before touching an open wound. If possible, wear clean disposable gloves.
- If possible, wear clean disposable gloves. If the wound is deep, gaping, or has jagged edges and can’t be closed easily, it may need stitches. See your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
- If the wound does not appear to need stitches, rinse it and the surrounding area with clean (not soapy) water. Gently running water over the wound can help remove any dirt or debris that may be inside. If you believe that there is still debris in the wound, this should be checked by a healthcare provider.
- If desired, apply an antibiotic cream or ointment.
- Cover the wound to protect it from dirt if necessary.
- Watch for signs of infection: redness around the wound, skin around the wound warm to touch, increased pain, and/or discharge from the wound. Consult your physician or nurse practitioner if you suspect you may have an infection.