ANOTHER ONE OF THE CONDITIONS I HAD IN THE COMA.
Sepsis, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to an infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. Roughly half of Americans have never heard of it, even though the CDC reports sepsis affects more than 1.1 million Americans every year, kills more than a quarter-million of them and is a factor in more than half of all hospital deaths nationwide.Sepsis appears as a combination of symptoms that can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other infections, including sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as any of these symptoms listed by the CDC in memorable order:S — Shivering, fever, or very cold;E — Extreme pain or general discomfort;P — Pale or discolored skin;S — Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused;I — “I feel like I might die”;S — Shortness of breath.There’s more information available at http://www.cdc.gov/sepsis/While sepsis can originate as a complication of any infection in people of any age, it’s most common in the elderly, babies and very young children, people with compromised immune systems, people suffering severe burns or wounds, and those with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, and kidney or liver disease. Notable figures for whom sepsis is listed as the ultimate cause of death include boxer Muhammad Ali, U.S. Presidents William Henry Harrison and James Garfield, actor Christopher Reeve and Pope John Paul II. Sepsis, often a term used interchangeably with “septicemia” and “blood poisoning,” is also listed as the single most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals, with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reporting an annual price tag in excess of $24 billion and growing at an annual rate of almost 12 percent. The higher costs are typically driven by a high risk of complications and long hospital stays, but healthcare leaders and researchers are working to improve survival rates with timely diagnosis and treatment, which will have the added benefit of lowering costs.The New York-based IPRO, a Medicare Quality Improvement Organization (www.stopsepsisnow.org), is working on a two-year initiative funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to improve awareness of sepsis in the general public and among non-hospital health care providers, working with skilled nursing and home health agency nursing staff to provide educational training programs about sepsis. IPRO reports having trained more than 5,000 clinical and non-clinical staff, and they’d like to train even more, as well as provide informational presentations at senior centers. If your organization would be interested in such a presentation, contact Office for the Aging outreach coordinator Brian Jones at email@example.com or 845-486-2555 and he can put you in touch with the resources you’re seeking.Todd N. Tancredi is director of the Dutchess County Office for the Aging. Golden Living is prepared by the Dutchess County Office for the Aging, 27 High St., Poughkeepsie; call 845-486-2555, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; visit http://www.dutchessny.gov/CountyGov/Departments/Aging/AGIndex.htm