The family of a Virginia woman, who died suddenly from Sepsis, marked the first anniversary of her death last weekend by coming together with the community to do a fundraising walk for the Emergency Department at Cavan General Hospital.
The goodness and generosity of people was very much in evidence as hundreds of people assembled for the 4km memorial walk for Angela Cahill.
Specialists from the HSE also attended and handed out leaflets to raise awareness of the condition. Sepsis is a serious complication of an infection. Without quick identification and treatment, it can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
There are around 15,000 cases of Sepsis in Ireland each year and around one in five people who develop it die as a result.
Cathriona Flanagan, a daughter of the late Angela Cahill, spoke to The Anglo-Celt before the start of the walk.
“This is a lovely thing to do today. It is getting the community together. Our mother was a young fresh woman, she loved the chat and the cup of tea. There will be lots of tea and refreshments here after the walk. We are turning such tragic situation into a positive event here today,” she said.
Cathriona’s sister Helen, her brother Matthew and their father Noel also did the walk for their late mother and wife.
Cathriona is a nurse by profession.
“If you have a loved one at home and they feel unwell or a bit confused or might not have passed urine in 12 hours, just get them to the hospital. Ask that question ‘could it be sepsis?’. What we are saying today is - if in doubt, get checked out,” she stressed.
Matthew Cahill said that he had never heard of Sepsis before it claimed his mother’s life.
“I thought she will get alright. Some time later, I realised that it started shutting down her organs. She went into hospital at 9.30am on the Thursday morning [February 8]. They put her on a ventilator at 2pm and switched it off at 5pm,” he said.
“She was up and about on that Thursday morning and getting her hair done and going on as normal. She did not want to go in the ambulance at all. The conclusion was that it came from a chest infection but she was not coughing or anything. She just had been in the bed on the Wednesday with the flu,” recalled Matthew.
“Everyone loved mammy, she was such a popular woman. She always had a smile on her face,” he added.
Her husband Noel hoped that the community walk will raise greater awareness of the condition and perhaps help to save a life.
“We don’t want any other family to go through what we experienced. We were told that she had a chest infection and it turned septic. It was the last thing I thought that morning going down in the ambulance. At worst I thought it might be pneumonia. I did not think this nightmare was going to happen to us,” said Noel.
He said that his wife Angela had a heart of gold. “She gave everything and looked for nothing in return,” he said.
“We were enjoying life before this happened and had been talking about plans for our retirement and things we would like to do – that finished all that… It is like a bad nightmare. I still can’t believe it,” continued Noel.
“If today’s walk and awareness campaign saves just one person’s life, it will be something,” he said.
Celine Conroy, group assistant director for Sepsis in the Ireland East Hospital Group, was part of the HSE team at the walk.
“You have to have an infection to have Sepsis and it is your body’s reaction to that infection – whether it starts to cause organ failures or organ disfunctions – that is when it becomes Sepsis. Not all infections turn into Sepsis.
“You don’t need to panic when you get an infection. Go to your GP and get your antimicrobials. Then, if you are not responding to those antimicrobials and actually feeling worse, you will have to consider getting into a hospital. Go back to your GP and they will let you know, if you need to go to hospital,” she advised.
There is a checklist for suspected Sepsis on the HSE website. It includes any malfunctions in the following – brain, breathing, circulation, kidneys, clotting and functional status.
“If you have any of those symptoms, get into the hospital and ask when you get there ‘could this be Sepsis?’,” said Celine Conroy.