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Family of sepsis victim counts their blessings

It was a typical day when the vibrant, 8 year-old-girl bumped her knee at school. Normally athletic and spirited, she complained about the nagging pain in her leg. When the child did not improve after two days, the concerned mother took her to the University of Chicago Medical Center. A nurse told them she had a temperature of about 100 and lab work indicated a high white blood count.

Another test showed bandemia, a condition marked by high white blood cells and a frequent indicator of sepsis. The doctors treated the third-grader with morphine and Tylenol, eventually ordering an MRI.

By then, the concerned mother, unhappy with the treatment, almost left the hospital. Against her better judgment, she ended up staying. She had the feeling the doctors were missing something, but she ignored her own instincts and trusted them. Yet somehow she knew something was very wrong with her daughter.

More than two days later, her instincts proved to be right. According to the family attorney, by the time the little girl was finally given antibiotics, it was too late. The girl had gone into septic shock, a condition related to a dramatic drop in blood pressure due to infection. She went into cardiac arrest, her organs began to fail, and she required a breathing tube.

Ultimately, she developed gangrene in her extremities, and the doctors had no choice but to amputate all four limbs to save her. The family attorney has stated the doctors had been wrong and by the time they realized it, there was no turning back. The family filed a malpractice suit and settled for $32 million.

Today, three years later, the young lady has two prosthetic legs and has come a long way. She and her family have celebrated countless milestones as she carries out activities like washing dishes, swimming and playing basketball. She is living a life full of possibilities, not uncertainty. Although she is still learning to do things on her own, the family has been thankful that the girl is alive and able to go to school, participate in sports and even complete her chores at home.

After the settlement for a missed diagnosis, the family is able to afford the latest prosthetics and a personal care provider for as long as the girl lives. While sepsis remains the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S, more training and medical attention are needed to recognize the disease, as well as treat it in a timely manner. As a result, medical malpractice lawsuits may be used to hold doctors and heath care facilities responsible when the disease is not diagnosed or treated properly.

Source:, "Sepsis claimed girl's limbs but not her spirit" Stacy St. Clair, Jan. 02, 2014

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