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Adventist Health Howard Memorial promotes sepsis awareness to save lives

Adventist Health News

Thursday, September 26, 2019 (Willits, CA) –- Sepsis is not something you often hear in the news. But at Adventist Health Howard Memorial, physicians and nurses are constantly on the lookout for it.

Sepsis is a serious condition that occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to an infection that it becomes life-threatening and can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

Each year, an estimated 270,000 people in the U.S. die from sepsis and another 100,000 are discharged from hospital to hospice care. Those 1.4 million in the US who survive sepsis each year face challenges in returning to their normal way of life. Up to half of survivors are left with life-changing long-term physical, cognitive, and/or psychological effects. These lasting effects force many to quit their jobs or school and can have a negative impact on personal relationships. Some face depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Thousands more are no longer able to cope with day to day activities on their own and must move into assisted care facilities. During Sepsis Month, the hospital is hoping to educate the community about sepsis, its symptoms, treatment and recovery to save more lives.

While so many know about other health conditions such as stroke or heart disease, very few know about sepsis symptoms. A survey by the Sepsis Alliance found that only 14% of Americans can describe the symptoms of sepsis.

Bacterial infections are the typical cause of sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the best way to prevent sepsis are preventing infection by frequent handwashing and keeping any surgical site clean, getting vaccinated for pneumonia and the flu (35 percent of sepsis cases stem from pneumonia), and seeking prompt treatment for a urinary tract infection.

Just like stroke, time is critical when it comes to sepsis. So, the more you know about symptoms, the better for you. Sepsis symptoms can be tricky because there are so many, and some are very similar to other conditions. Remember to look out for: rapid breathing or pulse, feeling disoriented, chills or fever, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea and low body temperature.

When it comes to preventing and treating sepsis, it’s all about TIME. Here’s an easy to remember sepsis symptoms:

T – Temperature (high or low body temperature)
I – Infection (signs include fever, shortness of breath and redness or swelling around a wound) or gastrointestinal symptoms
M – Mental decline – sleepiness or confusion
E – Extremely ill – highly uncomfortable

At Adventist Health Howard Memorial, staff are also taking steps to save more lives. Kristy Bowen, RN, director for quality, says they have put a laser focus on sepsis initiatives and are continuously looking for ways to improve processes. “We are doing more education and trainings for physicians and nurses, improving processes such as collaborating with the lab department to improve timely testing and diagnosis, as well as with pharmacists to get treatment medications fast-tracked. Sepsis cases are also peer-reviewed so that staff can learn from them and continue to improve.

“We also started initiating “Code Sepsis” which then summons a critical care team to activate more aggressive interventions and quicker response,” she adds.

Bowen cautions however, that the community also plays a very important role. “The success of all of the tools and technology we are is contingent on one thing: the patient presenting for timely treatment. Personal recognition of symptoms that may indicate a potential sepsis diagnosis and seeking treatment immediately is key. TIME-ing is everything. So, the more we can educate our community to recognize the symptoms, so they can get here in time, the better we can help and the more lives we can save.”

If you believe you have symptoms of sepsis, call 9-1-1 or go to Adventist Health Howard Memorial’s emergency room.


About Adventist Health Howard Memorial (formerly Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital) is part of Adventist Health, a faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system serving more than 80 communities on the West Coast and Hawaii. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist heritage and values, Adventist Health provides care in hospitals, clinics, home care agencies, hospice agencies and joint-venture retirement centers in both rural and urban communities. Our compassionate and talented team of 35,000 includes associates, medical staff physicians, allied health professionals and volunteers driven in pursuit of one mission: living God's love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope. Together, we are transforming the American healthcare experience with an innovative, yet timeless, whole-person focus on physical, mental, spiritual and social healing. Visit for more information.