Anna Marie Kiernan watched sepsis rob her brother of a fantastic future and rob her family of a chance to watch him live it.
Liam Duggan was Anna Marie’s only sibling. There were two years between them and they shared the same birthday – January 31.
“He had an amazing future ahead of him. He was a professional golfer and was teaching golf to children all over the country,” said Anna Marie.
Liam, who lived with his wife, Catherine, and two young children, in Ballymacelligott, Tralee, Co Kerry was 37 years old when he died on May 9, 2017.
Anna Marie, a clinical nurse specialist in pain management at University Hospital Limerick, is originally from Limerick but lives in Kilkessan, Co Clare.
She is helping the HSE to mark Sepsis Awareness Month throughout September to get more people talking about the signs and symptom of sepsis.
Anna Marie said Liam never liked talking about his health and would always keep going even when he was not feeling well: “We could not have recognised the signs because he did not talk about how he was feeling. My message is that if you have an infection or feeling unwell and not getting better then really you need to start thinking that you could have sepsis.”
She had to telephone her parents from the hospital and tell them they were about to lose their son because sepsis had taken over his body.
“Something that haunts me to this day is looking into their eyes when they walked into the hospital room and seeing nothing but panic and heartbreak. Sepsis robbed him of a fantastic future and it robbed us of a chance to watch him live it.”
The HSE is urging everyone to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of sepsis and be ready to ask if it could be sepsis.
Sepsis is complex and difficult to diagnose. It is the body’s abnormal response to infection that results in the body’s immune system attacking its tissues and organs and can be life-threatening. It can develop from any infection and affect anyone.
One in five people who develop sepsis will die but with early recognition and treatment, the risk can be reduced.
Assistant director of nursing at University Limerick Hospitals Group and a member of the National Sepsis Team, Yvonne Young, said sepsis should be treated with the same urgency as a heart attack or stroke.
The symptoms of sepsis mimic those of the flu – high temperature, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, pain, pale or mottled skin and generally feeling very sick.
The main difference between sepsis symptoms and flu is that sepsis will come on very quickly whereas flu comes on over days.
Sepsis is a bigger killer than heart attacks, lung cancer or breast cancer.