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assumed that they would have sepsis culture
tests available and would give one to Jessie. The
emergency room doctor assumed that the blood
culture was not necessary. Maybe there was a
flu bug that had affected many children in their
geographical area that facilitated that assumption.
Fever is the most common symptom of sepsis, and
that can be caused by many other health issues.
Michelle (Jessica's mother) assumed that the blood
culture for sepsis was done. As a mother, she was
relieved to hear: "Your daughter doesn't have
sepsis...she is going to be all right."
Jessie's family was shocked to
learn that the hospital had never done the sepsis
blood culture. Jessie should have been admitted
for at least twenty-four hours to do further testing.
However, how could Michelle question the
emergency room physician without sounding like
an overprotective, paranoid parent? Actually, the
answer is simple...Michelle could have asked for a
copy of the sepsis blood culture results. If they were
not available immediately, she could have insisted
they be sent to her when they were ready, and (had
she known the danger ahead) followed up until
she had confirmation. As a patient's advocate, it
would be a completely logical, non-confrontational
request. You cannot produce results for a test
that was never done, and this becomes especially
important when the results are so critical.
Sometimes justice is not served after the fact;
justice for Jessie could have brought attention to
the tragedy and saved other children. The grieving
parents found themselves blocked by California's
MICRA (Medical Injury Compensation Reform
Act) law, which caps human suffering damages at
$250,000. Unfortunately, many states in America
have enacted similar laws, including my home
state of North Carolina. The families of healthcare
victims--unless they are wealthy--simply cannot
afford to maintain legal representation.
Michelle Geyer is now a national advocate against
(Author's note: "How can I recognize that sepsis
has started in small children? They will have a
temperature or fever, tend to drift off, become
weak, and lose muscle tone. Their breathing will
become labored, and their personality will seem
to change. They will lose their appetite and seem
apathetic. In case a child has an infection and
the condition worsens dramatically as described,
contact your health practitioner." ~ From Stop
Sepsis Save Lives)
"In everyday life we make assumptions all the time
about other people. Although there may be times
when our assumptions are correct, the reality is more
often that they are incorrect...and negatively slanted."
~ Lisa Merlo-Booth, Straight Talk for Women
In the field of medicine, assumptions are the
foundation of treatment for each patient based on
knowledge, evidence-based testing, and something
called "the clinical picture" (information related
to a disease, disorder, or a patient's status). Unlike
the assumptions that the average person (without
a medical degree) makes every day, the ones that