A scratch while gardening spiraled into a fatal bout of sepsis for a mother of two from the United Kingdom, her family says.
Lucinda Smith’s family, reported The Telegraph, said the 43-year-old went to see her doctor earlier this year due to pain in her shoulder that occurred shortly after she suffered a minor hand scrape while gardening.
The doctor diagnosed a trapped nerve and prescribed anti-depressants to relax her and she was also told to see a physiotherapist to help with rehabilitation of the so-called trapped nerve.
Within three days, Smith’s fingers and arm became red and swollen, The Telegraph said. She also was vomiting and had increased pain. She saw a second doctor who thought she might have a blood clot and sent her to Basildon where a blood test revealed within 30 minutes that she had sepsis.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, according to Mayo Clinic experts. It happens when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. That process can lead to organ damage and failure.
Septic shock occurs when the person’s blood pressure drops dramatically, which may lead to death.
Smith, a lawyer from Billericay, Essex, immediately received intravenous antibiotics and was moved to a critical care unit, but she suffered organ failure and died.
A CDC report released in August showed that in the U.S., for nearly 80 percent of patients, sepsis begins outside of the hospital. But it is also linked to exposure to medical environments -- 7 in 10 patients with sepsis had recently used health care services or had chronic diseases requiring frequent medical care.
Anyone can develop sepsis but seniors and people with weaker immune systems are more vulnerable, say Mayo Clinic experts. Early treatment of sepsis, usually with antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous fluids, improves chances for survival.
People should know the signs and immediately seek medical care if they notice these symptoms after developing an infection:
- Shivering, fever, or very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- High heart rate
At the CDC press briefing in August, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, said his own son survived sepsis more than two decades ago.
“Helping patients to know to ask ‘Could this be sepsis?’ empowers them to potentially save their own or family members’ lives,” he said. “Recognition and treatment against sepsis is a race against time.”
The most common infections that can lead to sepsis include lung infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection, gut infection, and skin infection.