BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Sepsis. It’s a word you never want to hear. It’s a bacterial infection in the blood that can cause organ failure, limb loss or even death.
Sepsis is one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. More than 1 million people are hospitalized for it every year.
The life of 36-year-old Amanda Flores, D.C. resident and mother of two, changed November 2014 when strep sent her into septic shock. She survived but lost her arms and legs.
This month, a Rhode Island community mourned the death of Gianna Cirella, a high school junior whose sore throat quickly turned into sepsis.
Last April, sepsis almost took the life of WJZ editor, friend and colleague Deb Kelly.
Kelly must relearn many life skills five months after driving herself to the hospital with what she thought was the flu. It was strep and then sepsis.
“They called Shock Trauma. Shock Trauma said, “OK we’ll take her,” but they didn’t think I’d make the trip. But I did,” she said.
Shock Trauma saved her life, but could not save her limbs.
The very same thing happened to Anne Mekelian seven years ago, a teacher at the cathedral school. She developed sepsis. Mekelian and Flores visited Kelly. Ambassadors for the belief, even after this kind of loss, that life can and will go on.
“You have to be motivated and you have to have a goal and you have to want to do something and she right away asked me about walking on the beach with her grandchildren,” Mekelian said.
Walking on the beach may be a ways in the future. First, she has to get her prosthetic hands under control. Then while one leg heals and learn to walk on a single prosthetic leg.
“She works too hard sometimes so I have to yell at her to stop,” the physical therapist said.
[REPORTER: How much as a physical therapist does a person’s personality affect their ability to recover?]
“Three-hundred percent,” the therapist said.
Kelly’s attitude is a real asset in a battle that’s physical, mental and emotional.
[REPORTER: There are people who would think it better to not have survived rather than to have lost what you lost.]
“I asked my sister if she thought I would’ve been better off dead, and being the brilliant woman she is she said, ‘do you think you’d be better off dead?’ And I started to think about it and no, I have so much to live for,” Kelly said.
Kelly is still working with a second prosthetic leg.
Sepsis is more common because of rising antibiotic resistance and antibiotics are the only way to cure it.