Did you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 1.7 million people develop sepsis in the United States in an average year? While the condition can be treated successfully, more than 250,000 deaths are attributed to sepsis annually. That is more than the number of deaths caused by AIDS, prostate cancer, and breast cancer combined!
More than 25,000 individuals reside in Virginia nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, and as a result, they are all considered to be at increased risk for sepsis compared to the average person. To understand why this is true, you must first understand a little more about the condition. If your loved one in a nursing home has contracted sepsis, a Virginia nursing home injury lawyer can help you take appropriate action against the facility.
Sepsis Is Not an Infection
The first thing you should know about sepsis is that it is not an infection, nor is it a bacterium, virus, parasite, or any other type of pathogen. Instead, sepsis is a response to an infection. Put simply, a person can only develop sepsis if he or she has some type of infection.
When a disease-causing agent enters a person’s body, the body’s immune system goes to work in fighting it. A healthy immune system may be able to stop the agent from causing an infection while weakened immune systems might have significantly more trouble. If the infection does set in, however, the immune system does not give up. It moves on to fighting the infection directly.
In doing so, the body produces more white blood cells, along with certain chemicals to get rid of the infection. Medications, such as antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals, can help the immune system fight. In most situations, the infection-fighting chemicals focus on the infection. Sometimes, however, the immune system sends these chemicals throughout the entire body, causing inflammation and turning the body against itself. Medical experts are not yet sure exactly why this happens, but this is the condition known as sepsis.
Sepsis-related inflammation can cause organ damage and trigger blood clots in the bloodstream. Blocked blood vessels deprive organs and limbs of oxygen and other vital nutrients. Extremely low blood pressure can send a person into septic shock, which can quickly become fatal.
According to the Sepsis Alliance, the most common infections related to the development of sepsis are pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Sepsis can also develop from the flu (influenza) or an infected wound or sore—all of which are common afflictions among nursing home patients. In addition, many individuals who reside in nursing homes have immune systems that have been compromised either by other medical conditions or advanced age. Chronic conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or cirrhosis can also increase the risk of sepsis.
It is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to carefully monitor all patients, especially those who might be in danger of developing sepsis. Medical staff must be prepared to identify and treat infections and to watch for warning signs of sepsis to prevent the condition from worsening and potentially killing the patient. If the staff does not do so, there is the potential for liability on the part of the facility for the injuries sustained as a result of the resident contracting sepsis.
Call Our Virginia Nursing Home Neglect Attorneys
If you have a loved one that developed sepsis in a nursing home and you believe that neglect or poor medical care was to blame, an experienced Virginia nursing home injury lawyer can help. We would be happy to discuss your situation in a free consultation at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. We will help you explore your options for taking action and will work hard to get your loved one justice they deserve—just as we did in securing a $300,000 award for an 80-year-old client who fell and broke her leg in a Virginia nursing home. Call our office today.
An experienced personal injury attorney with dual licensure in Virginia and North Carolina, Eric Washburn received a B.B.A. in Finance from James Madison University—initially worked in the information technology field before obtaining his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Once an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Danville, Va., Eric has been recognized by Super Lawyers Magazine as a “Rising Star” Super Lawyer in Virginia since 2014.