Pediatric Sepsis: A First-Hand Account with Two Different Outcomes

Matthew Wright is the Director of Advocacy and Mobilization with the Children’s Hospital Association. He oversees the Speak Now for Kids community.

baby_picture.jpgI was an unplanned baby. My birth mother was a teenager who hid the pregnancy from her parents to the point where she stayed with friends to avoid potential condemnation from family members. Despite her circumstances, my birth mother was committed to proceed with the pregnancy and offer me for adoption.

With no health insurance and limited access to prenatal care, my birth mother didn’t receive timely treatment for a number of health issues throughout her pregnancy. One of her most serious health conditions was sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.

Matthew.jpgI contracted sepsis from my birth mother in utero. According to the National Institutes of Health, neonatal sepsis is a leading cause of infant death. The more quickly an infant gets treatment, the better the outcome.

Upon birth, I was immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan for treatment. My mother remained at the public hospital fifteen miles away. While I received excellent care at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and recovered from sepsis within a matter of weeks, my birth mother wasn’t as fortunate. She died ten days post-partum from complications related to sepsis and other health issues.

While our experience was nearly 40 years ago and there are new advances with infection diagnosis and treatment, sepsis remains a real threat to children’s health. Sepsis can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail.

During Sepsis Awareness Month, it’s important to increase awareness among expecting mothers, current parents and caregivers about the symptoms of sepsis and seeking treatment in a timely manner.

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