• In 2022, Blessing Health launched a program to help caregivers identify as early as possible the deadly condition known as sepsis. The program features human clinical expertise supported by the latest technology.
  • Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection, triggering a chain reaction that can lead to tissue damage and organ failure.  It requires specialized treatment delivered as quickly as possible.
  • But sepsis can be difficult to diagnose as it may appear as a common infection or other medical condition. For that reason, by the time a person becomes very sick due to sepsis it can be too late for treatment.  Death can occur in as few as 12 hours.
  • At least 1.7 million adults in America will develop sepsis every year.
  • Over the past year, more than 30 Blessing caregivers have been recognized as “Sepsis Heroes” for the early identification of sepsis in their patients.
  • The following story is an example of that life-saving work in action:

A new mother is home with her baby thanks to five Blessing Hospital nurses, who have been recognized as “Sepsis Heroes.”

Blessing Hospital Women’s Health Services nurses Kim Kunkel, Kaytlynn Shepard, Heather Colbert and Abby Miller recognized shortly before her discharge that the condition of a woman in their care was not normal. Her heart rate was elevated and she expressed general feelings of illness.

The woman’s discharge from the hospital was delayed to receive treatment for her symptoms. Her condition did not improve, leading the nurses to consult with Blessing Hospital High Acuity Response Team (HART) nurse – and the other “Sepsis Hero” in this case – Theresa Huddleston.

A HART nurse meets clinical qualifications to be called upon to consult with nurses anywhere in the hospital who are caring for a patient whose condition is worsening.

As a result of the critical thinking demonstrated by this team of five nurses, the woman was diagnosed with Maternal Sepsis. The condition kills 261,000 new mothers each year worldwide. Treatment with the appropriate antibiotics began in the needed timeframe and the new mom survived.

“Had she gone home, she most likely would have died,” said Laura Weigand, RN, BSN, CCRN, TNS, Blessing Hospital Sepsis RN Coordinator.

What happened?

As many as 7% of women develop infections naturally after giving birth because of the effect the birthing process has on the abdominal wall and reproductive, genital, and urinary tracts. It allows for the introduction of existing bacteria within the body into these normally sterile areas.

If an infection develops, it can quickly become a case of sepsis.

“Their critical thinking was amazing,” Laura said of the four nurses to whom she gave Sepsis Hero pins. “They did not overlook the possibility of an infection.”

"Sepsis Hero Pin"Nurses credit the process and the patient

Sepsis Hero Kim was the nurse who first noticed the mother’s weakened condition.

“We continued to watch it as it evolved slowly throughout the day. As the evening progressed and the next shift came on, it was a seamless transition. We all knew what each other was talking about and what we needed to do. And it worked as it was supposed to. You just have to trust the process. It works very, very well.”

The patient’s provider, Brett McGowan, MD, OB/GYN, Blessing Health, recognized Kim for a great catch and for being a strong advocate for her patient.

“It is not an exaggeration to state that, had she ignored her instinct and discharged the patient as previously planned, the patient could have become severely ill, developed devastating complications…or died from severe sepsis,” Dr. McGowan said.

“Without the help of other Blessing caregivers, we wouldn’t have been able to figure out what was really wrong with her as quickly,” Sepsis Hero Kaytlynn added.

New RN and Sepsis Hero Heather said, “The experience was valuable for me to know what to watch for and how to catch it.”

“The diligence, skill, and collaboration of our nurses and physician ensured that this new mama went home to her family, and we couldn’t be prouder,” concluded Jamie Kane, DNP, MBA, RN, administrative director, Women’s Health Services, Blessing Health.

Sepsis Hero Kim stresses the new mom played a vital role in saving her own life. In spite of a new mother’s desire to get home with her baby, this mom shared with her nurses that something was not right.

“I think that the patient felt safe enough with her care team that she felt she could verbalize what she was going through, even though she wasn’t exactly sure what she was experiencing or why,” Kim said.

“I am so thankful that she followed her instinct and felt comfortable to talk to us, knowing that it was going to delay her discharge, but that it was in her best interest,” Kim concluded.

For more information on sepsis, including its symptoms, go to blessinghealth.org/sepsis