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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.

This section will feature a weekly report which generated a lot of interest when it was first featured on the Medical Breakthroughs site. Come back weekly to read each highlight as we "Play It Again!"
Reported April 2015 Email a Friend

Sepsis: What You Need To Know

BOSTON. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Sepsis claims the lives of more people every year than breast cancer, prostate cancer and aids, combined. Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. dies of the deadly condition. If you don’t know much about it, you’re not alone. Victims and doctors are now speaking out to raise awareness.

Warm memories come flooding back each time Doreen Bettencourt looks through her scrapbook.

“All the pieces I can still capture, even though they’re gone I still have them in a book,” Bettencourt told Ivanhoe.

They were moments Doreen nearly lost, when a routine surgery to have a cyst removed nearly killed her.

“My whole body was shaking,” she said. “Nurses were holding my arm to try to get arterial blood gas out of me.”

Doreen’s organs were shutting down. She was in septic shock. Nathan Shapiro, MD, MPH, attending physician at the Department of Emergency Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston says the severe inflammatory response can be caused by any infection. 

“It can be anywhere,” Dr. Shapiro told Ivanhoe. “It can be a skin infection, pneumonia, urinary tract infection. It does not really matter what kind of infection, and this gross amount of inflammation really causes the body to almost turn upon itself.”

A sepsis survivor himself, Dr. Shapiro says diagnosing the condition early can mean faster treatments and better outcomes for patients. Warning signs include fever, nausea, an elevated heart rate, confusion and difficulty breathing.

“They could not tell my mother for a whole month if I was going to live or die,” Bettencourt said.

Doreen spent 55 days in the hospital, most of them on an IV while she waited for her wound to heal.

“They had to leave me open from hip to hip to heal from the inside out,” she said. “You know, the pain I will never forget, the pain that I was in.”

Now, she’s made a near full recovery and has become a nurse and sepsis advocate, hoping to help others have a chance to make more memories, too.

Every year, severe sepsis strikes more than a million Americans. The survival rate for those in septic shock hovers around 50 percent. Typically, doctors treat the condition with antibiotics, but other therapies, like oxygen, IV fluids, dialysis, mechanical ventilation, or surgery are also used.

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If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Kim Groves at



Kelly Lawman
Senior Media Relations Specialist
Harvard University

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