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Sepsis Awareness Month: Faces of Sepsis

Sepsis Awareness

Sepsis Awareness Month: Faces of Sepsis

Danielle Christiansen – Tribute


My husband and I took our 6-year-old daughter to the ER because she seemed lethargic and her coloring was off. With virtually no symptoms and perfect vitals, we were told that dehydration was a common side effect from the flu going around and she was given some fluids. (Sepsis and Influenza) We happily awaited the promise that in no time, we’d see her feeling better – 30 minutes later, my daughter screamed that her chest hurt and immediately stopped breathing.


Code red set in and I can’t even begin to describe the scene of horror taking place on my daughter’s body at this moment and our utter shock at even considering the concept of what was taking place.


Life flight arrived to take her to Primary Children’s. The Primary Children’s doctor called us about five minutes after the med team landed (as we raced to get to her with only the hope of a miracle flickering). We pulled off the highway to hear exactly what he was about to say.


It had been one and a half hours since she first coded. For one and a half hours of the most heartbreaking moments of my life, they tried to bring my daughter back. But to no avail. There was nothing more they could do and he was calling her death at 12:25pm (only about two and a half hours after we first arrived at the hospital that morning).


No one knew how she had died. No one had a single answer for us. Sepsis due to influenza (her final cause of death) was not mentioned once. An autopsy was ordered and the medical examiners could only pick up on the influenza type b in their panels. So they sent her samples to the CDC. Almost 9 months after my daughter died, we finally got the call to finally explain how she died. She had a sore throat that showed no traces of infection in all the medical examiners panels, but the CDC was able to break down her tissues on a molecular level and identify traces of bacteria sourcing from her trachea. With the flu disabling her immune system, the bacteria crept into her blood stream with literally zero resistance from her immune system. Septic shock set in quickly and her entire system failed overall in a domino effect of shutdowns.

Her primary cause of death: treachobronchitis

Her secondary cause of death: Influenza type b

The mechanism of her death: Sepsis / Septic Shock

As a mother, if I would have been aware of what the symptoms of sepsis looked like, I could have demanded they consider that as a possibility. Her lethargic and discolored body was a vast red flag looking back. As a patient, the hospital literally had zero process in place to tackle the thought of sepsis in a child like her. The flu was their only answer and that shortness of sight was tragic for us uninformed parents. If they had caught her actual symptoms and started her on an emergency septic shock treatment, there is a chance she could still be alive. If I, as a parent, knew what sepsis looked like….I could have taken her in days earlier and demanded sepsis be looked at.


I believe not only should hospitals be better prepped for sepsis…but parents should also have more education about this deadly disease. Parents are the first line of defense and we should have access to information from doctors, schools and medical clinics on what to watch out for in case our loved ones may possibly have this deadly disease.


For more information about sepsis visit Sepsis Alliance.

Suspect Sepsis. Save Lives.


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