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The toddler who fell of his bike and scraped his knee. The woman with a common bowel disease injury. And the man with Strep throat. 

All are victims of a minor, treatable problems that turned deadly in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, all four survived – but left with life-changing injuries, including legs so destroyed they had to be amputated.

The culprit is a terrifying condition that occurs in response to a minor infection, and affects one American every 20-seconds: sepsis.

Spotting the so-called ‘silent killer’ requires an astute physician with awareness of the disease. Notably, a third of all infections that trigger sepsis are contracted in hospital. 

And cases are on the rise; up 20 percent between 2019 and 2021, according to the most recent CDC data. 

Despite this, the US has no comprehensive strategy for tackling the problem, unlike other nations like the UK. A quarter of US hospitals have no sepsis protocol whatsoever.

Perhaps the most heartwrenching tales told to DailyMail.com is that of three year-old Beauden Baumkirchner, who developed sepsis after a knee scratch became infected with the bacteria staphylococcus.

Now, speaking to DailyMail.com, the US’ biggest Sepsis charity has called for urgent national action to prevent millions more needless deaths and life-destroying injuries. 

‘Doctors are not provided with enough information to help them to diagnose sepsis,’ Dr Steven Simpson, Professor of Medicine at the University of Kansas and Chair of the Sepsis Alliance told DailyMail.com.

‘There’s no catchy phrase to help doctors and hospitals look out for it, like they have in other countries.

‘Every hospital in the country should have a sepsis committee, a sepsis quality improvement programme and organize their facility so it is primed to spot and treat sepsis. Currently, this is absolutely not the case.’

 Although not the stance of the Sepsis Alliance, Dr Simpson said he believes the CDC should also do more to guide hospitals in looking out for the disease. ‘

‘The CDC is getting better, at least they now have a sepsis webpage. But they should use the effort of specialist organizations like ours to inform official guidance that can be given to hospitals.’

The words echo that of CDC director Dr Mandy Cohen, who spoke on the subject last year.

‘Sepsis is taking too many lives,’ she said. ‘Rapid diagnosis and immediate appropriate treatment, including antibiotics, are essential to saving lives, yet the challenges of awareness about and recognition of sepsis are enormous.’ 

Sepsis is a medical emergency that is caused by the body’s extreme reaction to an infection. It occurs when chemicals released in the bloodstream cause the immune system to go haywire. 

Janice Holloway, 65, from Arizona, suffered an infection from an unknown pathogen, which quickly turned to sepsis - the first signs of which were a rash on the back of her leg and a high fever.

Janice Holloway, 65, from Arizona, suffered an infection from an unknown pathogen, which quickly turned to sepsis – the first signs of which were a rash on the back of her leg and a high fever.

Instead of sending infection-fighting white blood cells to attack a foreign invader, it targets healthy tissues and organs such as the limbs and the lungs and kidneys.

Infections that lead to sepsis most commonly start in the skin, urinary tract, lungs, or gastrointestinal tract, but almost any infection can lead to sepsis – starting in wounds as innocuous as paper cuts.

According to charity Sepsis Alliance, half of all cases are from an unknown pathogen. 

DailyMail.com has spoken to four patients whose stories highlight the devastating impact of the condition – and the astonishing speed at which it progresses.

In all cases, the doctors failed to make patients aware of the severity of their condition, or dismissed symptoms as simply a sign of being, ‘very sick’.

Her also legs turned black and mummified

While on vasopressors for dangerously low blood pressure, circulation was cut off to her fingers and feet.

Janice Holloway, 65, from Arizona, was getting ready to go on a vacation to the mountains with her son when she noticed a rash forming on the back of her leg. Though she also had a high fever, she thought nothing of it. 

On the trip about two weeks later, Mrs Holloway’s son woke her up when he noticed she was having trouble breathing.

‘Within an hour, I was in multi-organ failure,’ she told DailyMail.com.

Mrs Holloway was airlifted back to Tuscon, where she was diagnosed with sepsis.

However, as is often the case with sepsis patients, the pathogen that caused Mrs Holloway’s original infection was never discovered. 

She spent two weeks in a medically induced coma and suffered dangerously low blood pressure. 

She was put on vasopressors, which push blood back to vital organs. However, this cut off circulation to her hands and feet, causing them to become black and mummified. 

On July 31, doctors amputated both of Mrs Holloway’s legs just below the knee, as well as two joints in her right hand. ‘I had a wonderful doctor who tried to save as much of my legs as she could. I was very blessed,’ she said. 

Mrs Holloway spent three months in the hospital, where she had both legs and two joints in her hand removed

Mrs Holloway spent three months in the hospital, where she had both legs and two joints in her hand removed

Mrs Holloway spent three months in the hospital, including one month of rehabilitation. Even after finally getting to come home, she faced a host of challenges. 

‘I went through a really, really bad depression when I got home. I couldn’t do anything on my own. I couldn’t put my hair back in a ponytail, couldn’t shower, get dressed,’ she said. 

‘I had kids pointing at me and laughing when I was in a wheelchair, before I had prosthetics. You go from somebody who was happy and gave hope to people in my life, and then here I am.’

‘Things like getting into bed and trying to move in bed without your legs to propel you. I sometimes just felt like I was spinning on a wheel like a hamster.’

The former nurse and chaplain clung to her faith. ‘But I felt like God said early on, “find another way.” And that’s what I’ve tried to do,’ she said. 

‘I had a two percent chance to survive, and I know God saved my life for a reason.’

Mrs Holloway's hospital stay included a month of rehab, where she had to learn how to do everything again, including walking and pulling her hair into a ponytail

Even after Mrs Holloway's month-long stay in hospital was over, she faced a lot of challenges including learning how to use prosthetics.

Mrs Holloway’s hospital stay included a month of rehab, where she had to learn how to do everything again, including walking and pulling her hair into a ponytail

'I had a two percent chance to survive, and I know God saved my life for a reason,' Mrs Holloway, pictured with her husband, said

‘I had a two percent chance to survive, and I know God saved my life for a reason,’ Mrs Holloway, pictured with her husband, said

Six years after her illness, Mrs Holloway still experiences memory loss and trouble concentrating.

Howver, this month she was finally able to return to teaching faith-based classes at her local prison. 

‘The only thing I wanted to do when I was in the hospital was be able to go to the bathroom on my own, but I’ve done more than that, so I’m very happy,’ she said.

Another victim is 61-year-old Don Smith (below), who was struck down by the condition after contracting a Strep infection in December 2017. 

This first sign of Mr Don Smith's sepsis started with pain in his foot, which he attributed to being an active runner. As the symptoms progressed, he could barely move.

This first sign of Mr Don Smith’s sepsis started with pain in his foot, which he attributed to being an active runner. As the symptoms progressed, he could barely move.

Strep bacteria is otherwise known as streptococcus, and it normally causes just an itchy throat and a fever. However, if untreated, in rare cases, it can leave patients vulnerable to sepsis. 

Mr Smith was unaware of the extreme immune reaction that was playing out within his body as he went about his normal daily business.

However, the first sign was a swollen, throbbing foot, which the Colorado native first chocked up to running 15 miles a week and just finishing a half marathon the month before.

Within days, ‘I was so weak I couldn’t get out of bed,’ Mr Smith, now 67, told DailyMail.com. ‘[My family] only got to me to the hospital by shoving me into the desk chair with wheels on it and rolling me out the door.’ 

‘I don’t remember anything about going to the hospital.’ Red dots had begun to form all over his body, from his feet to his chest. 

Doctors warned that Mr Smith needed to be rushed into surgery to protect his organs right away, and if he survived, they may need to amputate his legs.

Mr Smith lost seven toes to sepsis when his blood flow was cut off

More than six years later, he thinks he may be able to get devices in his shoes that will help him run again

Mr Smith lost seven toes to sepsis when his blood flow was cut off. More than six years later, he thinks he may be able to get devices in his shoes that will help him run again

‘They decided I was too weak to make it on my own, so they kept me in a coma for 13 days,’ he said. 

He woke up nearly two weeks later to a new year and a tube down his throat. However, several weeks later, the vasopressors caused blood flow to get cut off to seven of his toes. 

Mr Smith also required 10 operations, including skin graft surgeries for massive open wounds caused by dead tissue on his legs, which had stripped skin away and left a fishnet pattern beneath the surface.  

In total, he spent 54 days in the hospital, but the hardest part of his recovery came after he got home. 

The former half marathon runner was confined to a wheelchair and largely got around by hopping from one room to another. He even had to learn how to sit up by himself.

‘I was hardly mobile at all when I first got home,’ Mr Smith said. ‘It was very frustrating to be so limited. It was frustrating to not work up a sweat.’

‘I finally got to where I could sit up by myself, but that felt like a real accomplishment.’  

Mr Smith also required 10 ot 12 operations, including skin graft surgeries for massive open wounds caused by dead tissue on his legs, which had stripped skin away and left a fishnet pattern beneath the surface

Mr Smith also required 10 ot 12 operations, including skin graft surgeries for massive open wounds caused by dead tissue on his legs, which had stripped skin away and left a fishnet pattern beneath the surface

'Use the word sepsis. Tell people what it is and what it means because I had heard the word sepsis before, but I didn't have the slightest idea what it was,' Mr Smith said. 'And I almost died from it.  We need to get the word out so fewer people die.'

‘Use the word sepsis. Tell people what it is and what it means because I had heard the word sepsis before, but I didn’t have the slightest idea what it was,’ Mr Smith said. ‘And I almost died from it.  We need to get the word out so fewer people die.’

Mr Smith still suffers from brain fog and memory issues. However, though he has had to give up coaching competitive soccer, he may get to start running again, thanks to implants in his shoes to help balance out his missing toes.  

Mr Smith also spends much of his time volunteering and advocating with Sepsis Alliance

He noted that in this advocacy work, other patients have said that their doctors never told them that they had sepsis. They would instead hear something along the lines of, ‘you were very sick’. 

Mr Smith said that this lack of transparency keeps people uneducated about the condition, which could make them less likely to spot the signs.  

‘Use the word sepsis. Tell people what it is and what it means because I had heard the word sepsis before, but I didn’t have the slightest idea what it was,’ he said. ‘And I almost died from it.’ 

‘We need to get the word out so fewer people die.’ 

Sepsis impacts 1.7 million Americans every year, according to the CDC.

Every year, 350,000 Americans die due to sepsis, or one every 90 seconds. 

Sepsis Alliance estimates that 75,000 US children develop sepsis every year, roughly 200 a day. This includes more than 5,000 deaths, or 18 every day.

It’s the leading cause of death in US hospitals, according to Sepsis Alliance, and it leads to 35 percent of hospital deaths. 

However, 34 percent of Americans have never heard of it, Sepsis Alliance states.  

Certain groups are more susceptible to the condition, including adults over age 65, children under one year, patients with weakened immune systems, and those who have had sepsis in the past. However, anyone can get it.

Sepsis Alliance has also found that cases are on the rise, which could in part be due to a lack of cohesive care. 

The US does not have a national sepsis protocol, and 2023 CDC data found that more than 1,400 hospitals – about one-quarters – in the US do not have a sepsis program. 

Certain groups are more susceptible to the condition, including adults over age 65, children under one year, patients with weakened immune systems, and those who have had sepsis in the past. However, anyone can get it.

Sepsis can closely resemble the flu, which makes it extremely difficult to spot early. 

There is no single test, but doctors look for signs of infections with measures such as blood tests. Sepsis can progress to septic shock, which is characterized by a severe drop in blood pressure.

Signs of septic shock, according to the Mayo Clinic, include not being able to stand up, extreme fatigue or not being able to stay awake, and a major change in mental status. 

For every hour that treatment is delayed, the chance of death increases by four to nine percent. 

Beauden Baumkirchner was just three years old when he fell of his bike and was infected with MSSA from staph bacteria (pictured here before his illness)

Beauden Baumkirchner was just three years old when he fell of his bike and was infected with MSSA from staph bacteria (pictured here before his illness)

Beauden Baumkirchner was just three years old when he fell of his bike and was infected with MSSA from staph bacteria (pictured here before his illness)

After scraping his knee, Beauden became lethargic and had a high fever. In a matter of hours, his organs began shutting down

After scraping his knee, Beauden became lethargic and had a high fever. In a matter of hours, his organs began shutting down

Beauden Baumkirchner of Arizona was just three years old when he fell off his bike during a family vacation, injuring his knee.

The youngest of three seemed to recover quickly, so his parents thought nothing of it. 

‘Kids fall like 500 times a day, so we cleaned it up and put a Band-Aid on it and continued throughout our day,’ Beauden’s mother, Juliana Baumkirchner, told DailyMail.com. 

‘The odd thing was, he asked if it was bedtime at some point that evening, and he always fights bedtime.’ 

When he woke up the next morning, Beauden had a mild fever and vomiting. He also asked his parents to carry him around and refused to walk, holding his knee. 

A day later, Mrs Baumkirchner said her son was ‘scorching hot,’ and his breathing was rapid. ‘That was our tell-tale sign that something was wrong,’ she said.

In a matter of hours, Beauden was taken to the emergency room and admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

When he scraped his knee, Beauden had become infected with methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), also known as a staph infection. 

Beauden had to stay in the pediatric intensive care unit for two months as he recovered from sepsis

Both of Beauden's legs had to be amputated, as well as three fingers on his left hand

Beauden stayed in the PICU for about two months. As he lost blood flow to his limbs, doctors ended up amputating both legs just beneath the knee, as well as three fingers on his left hand. He also has visible scarring on his arms

Staph bacteria are commonly found on the surface of the skin, such as on the inside of the nose. In fact, the CDC estimates that 30 percent of people have staph in their noses.

This is usually harmless, though in rare cases, it can progress quickly and travel to the blood.

This caused Beauden to go into sepsis. ‘He was so critical. Everything shut down,’ Mrs Baumkirchner said. Doctors even came up to his room to perform one operation, as they feared he would not make it to the operating room. 

One physician told the Baumkirchners that, ‘if Beauden survived the night, it would be a miracle.’

Beauden survived and stayed in the PICU for about two months. As he lost blood flow to his limbs, doctors ended up amputating both legs just beneath the knee, as well as three fingers on his left hand. He also has visible scarring on his arms.

Now six years old, Beauden has had 21 surgeries, including the amputations and skin grafts. He was fitted with prosthetic legs and still has physical and occupational therapy three times a week. 

He has also recently started playing little league baseball. Mrs Baumkirchner raises awareness through an Instagram account for Beauden.

‘He has a go-getter, sunshiney disposition. He’s very unstoppable, never complains,’ Mrs Baumkirchner said. 

‘It will be interesting to see what he does when he gets older.’ 

Beauden riding his bike before his illness

Beauden using his prosthetics to ride his bike

Beauden is now able to ride his bike (left, before his illness, and right, after) and roughhouse with his two older sisters. ‘He has a go-getter, sunshiney disposition. He’s very unstoppable, never complains,’ his mother, Mrs Baumkirchner said.

Beauden's mother, Juliana Baumkirchner, shares her son's story on their instagram account, beaudensblessings.

Beauden’s mother, Juliana Baumkirchner, shares her son’s story on their instagram account, beaudensblessings.

Though he still requires physical and occupational therapy multiple days a week, Beauden has recently started playing sports, including baseball

Though he still requires physical and occupational therapy multiple days a week, Beauden has recently started playing sports, including baseball

She noted that while he generally maintains a positive attitude, Beauden will often ask why he doesn’t have ‘skin legs’ like other kids. 

Mrs Baumkirchner has also struggled to get Beauden’s school to make certain accommodations like a wheelchair ramp and handrailings on the school’s awards stage. 

She also hopes to raise awareness about sepsis and calls upon medical professionals to be more transparent with patients.

Doctors would often tell the Baumkirchners that Beauden was ‘very sick’ rather than explain the details about sepsis, and its severity.

‘For sepsis, I feel like is a disadvantage as a patient or a parent. It needs to be more like “your child has a life-threatening condition.” Then maybe we could wrap our heads around it,’ Mrs Baumkirchner said.

‘It still bothers me because that is beyond sick. “Sick” is a minor word. This was major. It was frustrating.’ 

Jackie Duda of Maryland’s symptoms started in her left hip in May 2021. 

Jackie Duda, 61, went septic after an untreated case of diverticulitis led to a perforated colon, which she believes could have been prevented if her doctor had seen her earlier

Jackie Duda, 61, went septic after an untreated case of diverticulitis led to a perforated colon, which she believes could have been prevented if her doctor had seen her earlier

Jackie Duda, 61, went septic after an untreated case of diverticulitis led to a perforated colon, which she believes could have been prevented if her doctor had seen her earlier

Sepsis caused Ms Duda's muscle mass to wither away, which required her to do intense physical therapy like swimming and weightlifting

Sepsis caused Ms Duda’s muscle mass to wither away, which required her to do intense physical therapy like swimming and weightlifting

The 58-year-old, who had previously been diagnosed with several autoimmune conditions, including Crohn’s disease, was in the middle of physical therapy exercises when she told her therapist that her hip hurt too badly to complete them. 

Her care team thought nothing of it and left for the day, but as the day progressed, her symptoms escalated. Ms Duda no longer had an appetite, and the pain radiated to her leg and pelvis.

Early the next morning, unable to sleep all night due to excruciating hip pain, she discovered that couldn’t move her left leg. 

In the hospital, doctors found that her colon had been perforated, meaning there was a hole in it. This causes stool to leak into the abdomen, which can lead to infections.

And unbeknownst to her, the infection had triggered septic shock.

‘I didn’t even know what sepsis was before this, and neither did my family,’ Ms Duda, now 61, told DailyMail.com. 

‘Suddenly, they’re putting a ventilator in.’ 

‘It’s a horrifying, terrible situation to be that close to death and not being able to do anything about it.’ 

Ms Duda later realized that her colon had perforated due to untreated diverticulitis, which causes small, bulging pouches called diverticula to form in the lining of the digestive system. 

A month before she developed sepsis, scans revealed that her colon was thickened from the diverticulitis. However an appointment to treat the problem wasn’t available for several months.

Ms Duda said that one of her proudest moments since her battle with sepsis was recovering enough to see her daughter graduate from college.

Ms Duda said that one of her proudest moments since her battle with sepsis was recovering enough to see her daughter graduate from college.

'Sepsis is the silent killer. We're losing so many people to sepsis, and so many of us are affected by it every year in the US. It's like a silent epidemic that no one's talking about,' Ms Duda said.

‘Sepsis is the silent killer. We’re losing so many people to sepsis, and so many of us are affected by it every year in the US. It’s like a silent epidemic that no one’s talking about,’ Ms Duda said.

Back in hospital, Ms Duda quickly went into respiratory failure, and her blood pressure plummeted. 

Over the course of five weeks, sepsis caused her muscle mass to wither away, leading to difficulty standing, walking, washing her hair, and even brushing her teeth. 

She also had to be fitted with a temporary ostomy bag, which allows waste to pass through a surgically created stoma on the abdomen. 

Over time, half of her colon had to be removed.

Her iron levels also dipped dramatically, and her hair began falling out.

Ms Duda’s mental health also suffered, as the near-death experience left her with PTSD. ‘It was a hellscape,’ she said. ‘I was crying every day.’ 

‘It’s horrific that we lose so many people unnecessarily to sepsis, but also the survivors are left with a bunch of baggage.’ 

However, she slowly started to regain her independence once the ostomy was removed in December 2021. 

In February 2022, she started intensive physical therapy, which included weight training and swimming. 

‘It’s been a gradual process since then, but I just keep going,’ she said. 

Similar to Mr Smith, Ms Duda has heard from talking to survivors that many of their doctors did not explain their condition or tell them that they had sepsis. 

‘Many survivors aren’t even told. They find it in their medical records,’ she said. Ms Duda said she was lucky that doctors told her that she was in septic shock. 

‘I want to share my story because I didn’t know what sepsis was. People need to know.’ 

‘Sepsis is the silent killer. We’re losing so many people to sepsis, and so many of us are affected by it every year in the US.’ 

‘It’s like a silent epidemic that no one’s talking about.’



#Beauden #scraped #knee..days #limbs #amputated #Doctors #warn #sepsis #crisis #killing #American #seconds #hospitals #missing

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