Right Turn: Hope for patients suffering from sepsis

Author: Stacey Johnson, 09/16/16

September is Sepsis Awareness Month and World Sepsis Day was acknowledged earlier this week – on Tuesday, September 13. That’s why there’s a good possibility that you have seen the video below, about a heartbroken mother who lost her young son to sepsis. (It has already been viewed millions of times.) Her grief is real and the video, telling her story through hand written signs rather than narration, is poignant and tragic. Her son might be alive today if first responders had recognized his condition.

Sepsis, also called blood poisoning, is a potentially life-threatening condition that is triggered by an infection or injury and can quickly cause organ damage and death. Patients in hospital intensive care units too often die from sepsis. According to the Mayo Clinic, “most people recover from mild sepsis, but the mortality rate for septic shock is nearly 50 percent.” Sepsis information sites concur that sepsis causes far more deaths than the combined number from prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS and cases appear to be on the rise.

If there is good news about sepsis, it is that stem cells may help prevent death. According to this 2016 article in Blood Reviews, “stem cells have shown their ability to prevent the organ damage and improve the organ function.” Further, mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) treatments act on more than one specific organ or area in the body and “this helps reduce the risk of long-term damage as well.”

In March of this year, we learned the sad news that well-loved actress Patty Duke died of sepsis from a ruptured intestine. She was 69. That same week, Canadian researchers, at the Ottawa Hospital, announced the first clinical trial in humans of a treatment for sepsis. An experimental therapy involving the injection of 30 million MSCs may have saved the life of a 73-year-old man who had developed sepsis after his esophagus ruptured. You can watch some news coverage here, if you missed it in April.

If MSCs prove to be a cure for sepsis, it will be exciting news for patients and hospitals everywhere. It may even provide some comfort to a mother in the UK who doesn’t want her son’s death to have been in vain.

Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
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