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How to Recognize Blood Poisoning - Sepsis

WHAT IS SEPSIS?
Sepsis is a modern word for blood poisoning, and is attributed to many deaths every year. Many cases occur when a hospitalized person has a procedure done and bacteria contaminates the blood stream as a result. People with compromised immune systems are at higher risk. Because their immune response is low, they can easily become ill from a normal infection that their bodies would typically fight off. If caught early, oral or IV antibiotics can be administered, and time of recovery depends on the severity of the case.

I had experienced blood poisoning many years ago after chronic lymphedema set in. I became very ill within 90 minutes of noticing red splotches on my abdomen, and when I got to the ER the attendings there had to go find someone in the hospital who could identify my symptoms. Fortunately, they found a doctor who had experienced it working at another hospital, so they got to work on me right away. I was grateful, but it was a very scary experience to say the least.

SPREADS FAST
Sepsis spreads very fast within the bloodstream, and has the potential to be life threatening. If the signs and symptoms are noticed early enough, a person can be treated at the hospital and will recover. However, if left untreated for over just two hours after signs or symptoms are present, vital organs will begin to shut down. The person may survive, but damage to organs can occur, including damage to the heart.

WHERE ANTIBODIES ARE MADE IN THE BODY
A personís immune system is an amazing thing. Our bodies make white blood cells that fight infection and disease. These white blood cells are made in the bone marrow.

The largest bone mass is in the pelvic region. After having invasive surgery and radiation to my abdominal area (over my pelvis), my white blood cell factory was directly attacked before it could send out enough cells to keep me protected. If you know someone who has had this type of surgery and has lymphatic edema in the area, make sure they pay attention to the warning signs. They would be considered high risk.

SIGNS OF SEPSIS -(Blood Poisoning)
Red rash, red splotches, high fever, vomiting, incoherence, intense body pain, and fatigue. Look at fresh surgical wounds, or past surgery areas for possible clues why it has occurred.

THOSE MOST AT RISK
Cancer survivors who have had lymph nodes removed
Surgery in the abdominal or pelvic region
People who suffer with chronic lymphedema
Those with low immune response, especially when coupled with chronic emotional distress

TREATMENT
Call 911 and get the person to an Emergency Room immediately. Tell the dispatcher that you suspect Sepsis, or say blood poisoning, and it may signal alarm to someone not familiar with it.

STAY WITH SICK UNTIL ATTENDED TO
Make sure hospital staff understand what you suspect.
Repeat it with each attending person, until everyone is aware of it. If you suspect someone is very busy and not paying attention, in this case, make it clear as crystal! An Emergency Room, by its very definition can cause chaos, bringing unintended consequenses. Make sure all are on alert!

IV fluids and IV antibiotics need to be administered right away, and blood taken to isolate which bacteria is present. Certain bacteria respond quicker to certain antibiotics. The sooner it is isolated, the quicker you get the infection under control. I was started on two IV antibiotics, to insure at least one would respond.

The person in distress must not be left alone. As I stated above, blood poisoning can spread quickly. When redness appears over a large area, instead of just splotches, this is a bad sign Ė vital organs are next to shut down. So stay with the patient until they are hooked up to the IV fluids and IV antibiotics. Blood poisoning is very, very painful, so make sure they get IV pain meds right away. The hospital will keep the patient until they donít have a temperature for at least 24 hours. This could be from a few days to a week, depending on the severity of the case.

POST-HOSPITAL
A follow-up with a General Physician should be done within a week of discharge. Take all hospital records, or have them faxed beforehand. Oral antibiotics should be discussed as a preventive maintenance, especially for someone with chronic lymphedema.

Editor's Note: I am not a medical professional. This information is entirely garnered from my own personal experience, and my intention is to inform. If you think you, or someone you know has sepsis or blood poisoning, call 911. Seek medical help immediately.

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