See It. Stop It. Survive It.

Sepsis is a public health issue. It is more common than heart attacks and claims more lives than prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined. Yet, in even the most developed countries, fewer than half of the population has heard of it.

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Hoosiers need to know the facts about sepsis.       

Watch this brief video, then share it with your friends, family and colleagues. Together, we can raise awareness about sepsis to help Hoosiers See It, Stop It, Survive It.

About Sepsis

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death.

Sepsis is a public health issue and not just a hospital problem. According to a 2015 Sepsis Alliance survey, only 47 percent of Americans have heard of sepsis and even fewer understand the risk factors and warning signs.

In Indiana, sepsis is the most frequent inpatient discharge aside from deliveries. Almost 3,500 Hoosiers die each year from sepsis, according to the 2015 Indiana Hospital Association (IHA) Inpatient Discharge Study.

Since 2008, Indiana hospitals have decreased inpatient sepsis mortality from 15.22 percent to 6.12 percent, according to the IHA Inpatient Discharge Study. Progress has been made, but we must continue to work to reduce the number of sepsis-related deaths across the state.


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Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death.

Any type of infection, anywhere in the body, can cause sepsis. This can include seemingly minor infections on the skin, urinary tract infections, pneumonia or appendicitis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 1 million cases of sepsis in the United States each year, and up to half of the people who get sepsis will die.

Sepsis can affect any person of any age, from any type of infection, no matter how minor.

While sepsis can affect anyone, you may be at a higher risk if you:

  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Are under 10 or over 65
  • Have an indwelling catheter or IV
  • Recently had surgery or have been hospitalized
  • Have a chronic illness (diabetes, AIDS, cancer, kidney or liver disease, etc.)
  • Have a severe burn or wound

Sepsis can be difficult to diagnose because it shares many signs and symptoms with other conditions. Health care providers look for signs of sepsis like increased heart rate, breathing rates and temperature. They also rely on lab tests that check for signs of infection that may not be visible to the naked eye.

There is no single sign or symptom of sepsis. Because sepsis stems from infection, symptoms can include common infection signs including diarrhea, vomiting and sore throat. Additionally, symptoms can include any of the following:

  • Shivering, fever, very cold
  • Extreme pain or feeling worse than ever 
  • Pale or discolored skin
  • Sleepy, difficult to wake up, confused
  • I feel like I might die
  • Short of breath

If you have an infection, along with any of these symptoms, you should seek medical treatment immediately.

Sepsis is a serious complication of infection that is usually treated in a hospital. Health care providers typically administer antibiotics to treat the infection, and work to keep vital organs healthy and prevent a drop in blood pressure.

In some cases, other types of treatment may be required including oxygen and intravenous (IV) fluids or assisted breathing with a machine or kidney dialysis. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove tissue damaged by infection.

While there is no way to completely prevent the possibility of sepsis, there are many ways to reduce your risk including:

  • Be vaccinated. Protect yourself against the flu, pneumonia and other infections that could lead to sepsis. Talk to your doctor for more information.
  • Be thorough. Properly clean and treat scrapes and wounds and practice good hygiene (e.g., hand washing, bathing regularly).
  • Be vigilant. If you have an infection, look for signs like fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, confusion and disorientation.

Many sepsis survivors recover completely and their lives return to normal. However, some people may experience organ damage, tissue loss or may require amputation of arms or legs. 

Additionally, according to the Sepsis Alliance, post-sepsis syndrome is a condition that affects up to 50 percent of sepsis survivors. They are left with physical and/or psychological long-term effects, such as:

  • Insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Nightmares, vivid hallucinations and panic attacks
  • Disabling muscle and joint pains
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Decreased mental (cognitive) functioning
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-belief

If you suspect that you, or a loved one, has post-sepsis syndrome, talk to a doctor about resources for emotional and psychological assistance.

Being Done

Indiana hospitals are on the front lines providing Hoosiers with the tools to stay healthy. Health care professionals have the responsibility to educate patients and the community about sepsis and how to prevent it.

The Indiana Patient Safety Center (IPSC) of IHA is working with hospitals across the state to create reliable systems of care to prevent sepsis and its potentially devastating effects. IPSC provides education and tools to hospitals to foster and support cultures of patient safety and the adoption of best practices.       

Indiana hospitals aren’t the only ones working to make a difference. To see what other organizations are doing, check out the Global Sepsis Alliance, the CDCSepsis Alliance and The Rory Staunton Foundation.

Sepsis Stories

The Doctor Asked If I’d Like To See A Priest Due to having breast cancer, I had a port inserted into my chest to assist with my chemotherapy. After my first round of chemo, my port became infected with MRSA. A week and a half later I found myself in the emergency room with sepsis. I only remember snippets of my month long stay in the hospital, but when the doctor asked if I’d like to see a priest I realized exactly how sick I was. I have since slowly improved and am no longer on my death bed. 

Debra, North Port

My brother-in-law hadn’t felt well for a couple days. He had flu-like symptoms and the doctor diagnosed him with pneumonia. On the third day of his symptoms persisting, my sister took him to a small local emergency room. The emergency room also thought it was pneumonia, admitted him and started him on antibiotics. Within an hour, he started having difficulty breathing, and an ambulance transported him to a larger hospital. He stopped breathing on the way. By the time I arrived, only 10 minutes after the ambulance, his skin was mottled and he was totally unresponsive. I have worked in emergency medicine on ambulances and in the fire service for 43 years and, aside from traumatic events, I have never seen anything progress so quickly. He was a great guy, and I miss him a lot. He was never sick and took good care of himself. His death was tragic and unexpected. I had never heard of sepsis until I saw the coroner’s report.

A Feverish Race to Survival A few years ago, I had a stent put into my kidney due to a stone that would not pass. There is pain while the stone is inside, but even when it had passed I was experiencing terrible pain. I had gotten it on a weekday, and by Friday of that week I was still hurting, but things felt different. I woke up Saturday morning chilled and I took my temperature and found that it was 103 degrees. My whole body ached and felt awful. The fever was still rising so I had blood tests taken and was put on an IV. I had sepsis. I couldn't believe it. They admitted me into the hospital where I had blood tests every two to four hours to ensure that the antibiotics were working. I looked like a pin cushion from all the blood tests and IVs, but I survived, thanks to the good Lord above. Many people who get sepsis do not turn out as fortunate. 

Sarah, Jeff

A Long Recovery Earlier this year I had been dealing with a slight earache for approximately three months. I was prescribed antibiotics and prednisone to help fight it off. On May 5, I was sick all day with stomach problems. Later that night, I was so weak I couldn’t do anything, and an ambulance was called. May 24 is the next day that I remember; I had been unconscious of my surroundings for 19 days. Hospital staff told me that I died three times and had been intubated for six days, among various other issues involving sepsis. It was a terrifying situation, but the hospital staff were all wonderful people. Eventually, I was sent home from the hospital, one month later, on June 5. 

Leigh, Winona Lake

A Seemingly Minor Infection The summer that I was about 10 years old, my family went camping next to an amusement park with a roller skate arena. I loved to skate and refused to let the fact that I didn't pack any socks keep me from skating with my dirty feet in the much used rental skates. A small blister formed on my right heel from the friction, and the blister became infected. Before I knew it, red streaks were running up my leg from the wound and the lymph nodes in my leg and groin became swollen and painful. I began to run a fever and had severe chills. I was agitated, aggressive and could not sleep. The aspirin I was given did nothing to relieve the pain or control my fever. My parents took me to a local doctor where I was given antibiotics and green soap to cleanse my foot while we were still camping. Thankfully, I recovered fully. 

Robin, Muncie

Share your story.

Get Involved

Access the Survive Sepsis Toolkit. IHA has designed a special toolkit to help your organization raise awareness about sepsis.

Access the toolkit

Share your story. Whether you are a survivor or grieving a loved one, share your story of how you have been touched by sepsis.

Join the fight. Join the Indiana Patient Safety Center, the Indiana Hospital Association and supporters from across the state in a Rally Against Sepsis on World Sepsis Day, Sept. 13, 9:30 - 11 a.m., at the Indianapolis Artsgarden.