Surviving Sepsis: What You Need to Know


The symptoms don’t seem far from those of the flu or a common cold with chills and aches, but sepsis can be deadly. Know the signs and symptoms.

It’s a dangerous condition that many healthcare professionals and organizations across the country are working to improve awareness and treatment — but for two Renown Health employees, their experience with sepsis was personal.

“I had a pain in my side … so I went to bed,” says Cathy Linnan, a patient care facilitator for Renown Social Services. “Next morning, it was horrible.”

Sadna Prasad, a unit clerk with Renown Nephrology, experienced shortness of breath. “And I’d be cold, shivering and then I’d be hot,” she says.

Disguised as a cold or the flu

The symptoms don’t seem far from those of the flu or a common cold with chills and aches, but sepsis can be deadly without trained medical professionals there to spot the signs and administer treatment quickly.

“When someone comes to the hospital and we recognize that they have sepsis, we actually have a rigorous sepsis protocol that we developed at Renown to treat patients with,” says Victor Lee, M.D., hospitalist.

Symptoms are easy to spot using the acronym SEPSIS:
S – Shivering, fever or feeling very cold
E – Extreme pain or discomfort
P – Pale or discolored skin
S – Sleepy, difficult to wake up or confused
I – “I feel like I might die”
S – Shortness of breath

Keep in mind, sepsis symptoms can vary depending on where the infection starts.

“Patients may experience urinary burning if they have a urinary tract infection or a cough and shortness of breath if they have pneumonia first,” says Christina Szot, M.D., Renown Medical Group — Pulmonary Medicine. “However, often symptoms are more generalized such as fevers, confusion and malaise.”

Early treatment is critical

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 1 million cases of sepsis are recorded in the United States and it is the ninth-leading cause of disease-related deaths claiming 258,000 nationally. While you can recover from sepsis if caught early, some survivors may require amputation or be left with permanent organ damage.

If you or someone you know may be showing one or many of the symptoms, seek medical care immediately.