Irish couple hosts first US national forum on sepsis

Parents of boy who died from infection campaigning to raise awareness

Rory Staunton: who died in 2012 from septic shock after he received a scratch on his arm during a basketball game. Photograph: The “New York Times”

Rory Staunton: who died in 2012 from septic shock after he received a scratch on his arm during a basketball game. Photograph: The “New York Times”

 

The first US national forum on sepsis, the life-threatening condition caused by an infection of the blood stream, takes place in Washington today, hosted by an Irish emigrant couple whose son died of the disorder.

Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, who live in Queens, New York, are campaigning to alert medical professionals and the public to the dangers of sepsis following the death of 12-year-old son Rory in April 2012 after he received a scratch on his arm during a basketball game.

Among the speakers at their forum are Democratic senator Chuck Schumer of New York, former New York state health commissioner Dr Nirav Shah and Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centres of Disease Control and Prevention.

“Sepsis right now is killing 20 times the number of people who are dying from Aids-related illnesses, yet more than 50 per cent of Americans have never heard of it,” said Ciaran Staunton, a well-known figure in Irish-American campaigns for US immigration reform.

“What we are trying to do is bring the decision-makers, both medically and politically, into the one room and say: you need to do something about this. When they tackled Aids they all came together and you could see what they could achieve.”

Campaigning by the Stauntons through the Rory Staunton Foundation led New York state governor Andrew Cuomo to introduce Rory’s Regulations, a checklist for medical staff to identify sepsis, in January 2013, measures the Stauntons estimate will save between 6,000 and 8,000 New Yorkers every year.

Another speaker at the forum will be Dr Martin Doerfler, a senior vice-president of clinical strategy and development at the North Shore-LIJ hospitals in New York, which introduced a protocol for medical professionals to check for sepsis and to treat patients with antibiotics and intravenous fluids while diagnosing.

“We are not waiting for a cure,” said Orlaith Staunton. “We know that patients are arriving at emergency departments and urgent care centres with sepsis. The signs are there.”

The Stauntons want these medical protocols introduced across the US.