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It all started with a tiny cut.
Rory Staunton, a 12-year-old New Yorker with a high-energy personality, was playing ball in gym class. At one point during the game, he dove for the ball, and he tripped, fell and got a scrape on his arm. His gym teacher quickly threw a bandaid on the cut and sent Rory back out to play.
Four days later, Rory was dead.
The cause? Sepsis, a life-threatening condition that claims the lives of six million babies and children a year. Sepsis is caused by the body’s extreme reaction to an infection. In battling the infection, the body releases a flood of chemicals that can cause inflammation throughout the entire body, which can damage the organs over time. In some cases, like Rory’s, severe sepsis and septic shock can set in, and lead to death if left untreated.
Rory did receive medical treatment, but doctors did not make the connection between the small cut on his arm and the many other symptoms he was experiencing, such as high fever and nausea.
Sepsis is not uncommon. In fact, it is the most common killer in hospitals across the world. But it must be identified in order to be treated correctly. Rory succumbed to septic shock just days after that fateful incident in gym class.
“It’s just astounding. When Rory died, I thought, ‘This has to be something really rare.’ Our son was 160 lbs. He was nearly 6 feet tall. I did not think there was anything that could kill him within four days that I wouldn’t know about,” Rory’s mother, Orlaith, told People. “And there was. And it’s the biggest killer of children in the world.”
Symptoms of sepsis include body temperature above 101 degrees Fahrenheit or below 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit, heart rate above 90 beats per minute and respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths per minute. Signs of severe sepsis can include decreased urine output, fast change in mental status, decreased platelet count, difficulty breathing, abnormal heart pumping function and abdominal pain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people recover from mild sepsis. But the mortality rate for the more severe septic shock is 50 percent.
In grieving the loss of their beloved son, Rory’s mother and father are working to ensure that no other parent must suffer the loss of a child to sepsis. They created The Rory Staunton Foundation with one simple goal: spread awareness about sepsis and ensure that everyone with this condition receives a speedy diagnosis and accurate medical treatment.
To that end, they are taking a multi-pronged approach to increasing awareness and striving to educate lawmakers, parents and even children. They were able to petition their home state of New York to require new sepsis protocols in all hospitals, which seek to identify, treat and prevent sepsis. These protocols are known as “Rory’s Regulations,” and more than 5,000 lives have been saved since they were put in place.
The Stauntons say that other states have promised to follow suit (Illinois is the first to have done so). But Rory’s parents also want to spread awareness among parents, teachers and kids themselves.
So they published a book called “Ouch! I Got a Cut!,” which teaches kids and their caretakers the correct way to care for a cut—which is cleaning it and covering it every time, even if it is just a small cut. The book is educational and empowering, and it teaches kids how to care for their bodies in a way that is informative without being scary.
Remember, sepsis is curable — but only if parents and caregivers become aware of the condition and how to prevent it. It’s important to spread this message far and wide, so that no other family will have to lose their child to this preventable condition.
And don’t forget to teach your kids the 3 Cs when it comes to take caring of their scrapes: cut, clean, cover.