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Your Healthy Family: Life or death question, are you sepsis aware?

Posted at 10:50 AM, Sep 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-06 12:50:48-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — September is Sepsis Awareness Month, and UCHealth is holding a free sepsis education workshop on Monday evening, September 9th, that you should consider attending.

According to the CDC, every year at least 1.7 million adults in America develop sepsis and nearly 270,000 die from it.

Here in Colorado the impact is significant says John Gentzel, a registered nurse who is currently the EMS liaison for UCHealth Memorial. “Sepsis actually takes more lives in Colorado then all the combined traffic accidents over the last several years (in our state).”

John has more than 40 years of experience in the medical field and has seen the worst sepsis can bring first-hand.

“As a former emergency room nurse I have seen (sepsis) and have actually experienced death because of people waiting too long to get to the E.R.”

John explains sepsis is the body's extreme response to an infection and a life-threatening emergency that can strike anyone. “Sepsis doesn't discriminate, doesn't care where you're at, your background, your education, your color, your creed - it doesn't matter. It is a very devastating disease and can come on gradually. When it does hit you it's actually a very sudden process.”

John says five years ago his first bout with sepsis came as a shock. He had recently had a major surgery and remembers working on his pickup truck when he couldn't shake the chills and developed a fever. He says he became disoriented and his judgment was off. His wife eventually said it was time to go to the emergency room.

John explains, “We didn’t know what was going on. They ran tests and because of my fever the vital signs that I presented - my blood pressure was trending down, my heart rate was up, my respiratory rate was up - they called a sepsis alert on me. I was thinking, ‘it can't be me, I have taken care of those patients, this can't be me.’”

Turns out he had E. coli in his liver and bloodstream, which carries about a 72% mortality rate. John was fortunate enough to survive, likely because he got to the hospital in time.

In all, John has had sepsis three times. After his first run-in he was more sepsis aware.

John says, “If you start to feel like you're not getting better and you're starting to run a fever that is not being well-managed with Motrin or Tylenol - I would get into the hospital, to make sure. You can die very quickly.”

Knowledge and education about the warning signs of sepsis is the biggest thing that needs to happen to save more people from sepsis.

The CDC even has a sepsis awareness quiz to educate the public. (TAKE THE QUIZ HERE [cdc.gov])

To hear more of John’s story, you can attend Monday’s event, where he will be sharing his story.

The “Time to Shut Down Sepsis” free class will be from 4 to 6 p.m. at the UCHealth Community Education center at 2050 Kidskare point in Colorado Springs. It’s located behind the Printers Park Medical Plaza just east of Memorial Park.

UCHealth is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family