Sometimes called blood poisoning, sepsis is a word with which you may not be familiar.
But the fact is, more Americans die each year from Sepsis than breast cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer, combined.
“It’s a toxic reaction to an infection.” explained Helene Zehnder, spokeswoman for Step On Sepsis.
Step On Sepsis is a 5K road race benefiting sepsis. The event is in its second year and was formed by a group of women who get together once a month to play Bunco, a dice game.
They decided to promote sepsis awareness after a teammate’s spouse, Jerry Minore, passed away in 2012 at just 55 years old.
What began as a urinary tract infection for Minore spiraled into sepsis. Three days after he was admitted to the hospital, his body shut down and he passed away.
What’s terrifying about sepsis is there are often no clear signs or symptoms that someone may have it.
Rusty Wagstaff’s battle with sepsis began when he woke up one Wednesday morning in December 2013 feeling exhausted and lethargic.
“I got up for work one morning, I told [my wife] Bonnie, ‘Something’s just not right. I don’t have any energy,’ ” Wagstaff said.
At first he thought he had the flu, but the doctors at urgent care told him that wasn’t the case.
“They said it was not the flu,” he said. “They told me to go home and just take acetaminophen.”
For the next three days, Wagstaff said he didn’t get any better. That Sunday, his wife took him back to urgent care.
“As soon as we walked in, the nurse called for the rescue squad,” he recalled.
Wagstaff was admitted to Rex Hospital, and he said he doesn’t remember much else after that. That is until he woke up to find his feet had been amputated.
“That was a shock,” he said. “When they pulled the covers down in the bed and showed me that I didn’t have feet anymore, a million different things went through my mind.”
Doctors tried to save his arms, but they too had to be amputated.
Wagstaff is much better now and has prosthetic limbs. He said he counts his many blessings, such as his first grandchild and his wife.
“She’s been my best friend through all of this, and a great nurse and a great doctor,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without her.”
Bonnie Wagstaff said a lack of energy is often a key indicator of sepsis, and encouraged anyone feeling as Rusty did, exhausted and lethargic, to visit their doctor.
The Step On Sepsis 5K Road Race & Walk is May 2 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. The event costs $30 to preregister, or $35 on the day of the race.
Editor’s note: WNCN’s video story about Wagstaff included images of Wagstaff and his family taken by The News & Observer.
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