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September is Sepsis Awareness Month

Did you know that only 65 percent of American adults have ever heard the word “sepsis”? Despite that number, it has affected millions of people across the country.

September is Sepsis Awareness Month, a time to bring awareness of this deadly condition and hopefully save lives and reduce suffering by improving sepsis awareness and care.

“Sepsis does not discriminate,” said Paul Korth, Cookeville Regional CEO. “It’s become even more evident with the number of people affected by COVID-19 over the past two-plus years that it can happen quickly.”

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Each year, about 1.7 million adults in America develops sepsis. It kills 350,000 adults and 6,800 children each year in the United States. That’s more deaths caused by pediatric cancers.

Knowing the signs and symptoms can be the difference between life and death.

Signs and symptoms to look for

There are many symptoms of sepsis, but the easiest way to remember it is that it is about TIME.

T – Temperature higher or lower than normal

I – Infection

M – Mental decline, such as confusion, sleepiness and difficult to rouse

E – Extremely ill with severe pain, discomfort and shortness of breath

Other symptoms include a high heart rate, clammy or sweaty skin and fever, shivering or feeling very cold.

Joint Commission certified

In 2015, Cookeville Regional Medical Center became the first hospital in the state to earn the Joint Commission’s certification for sepsis treatment.

“Being sepsis disease specific certified keeps us at Cookeville Regional working on making sure we are doing everything we need to take great care of septic patients,” Angela Craig, ICU clinical nurse specialist and sepsis coordinator, said. “We are constantly looking at our data – what we are doing well and what we need to improve.”

Cookeville Regional’s survival rate for severe sepsis and septic shock from January to June 2022 was 85.5 percent.

The process of earning the certification began long before 2015. The sepsis protocol was implemented in 2009 in the ICU/CVICU and the emergency department, then went house-wide the following year.

Within the first three months of implementation, there was a dramatic increase in survival rates. To gain certification, there had to be a formal program in place with a standardized method of treatment as well as a strong approach to performance measurement and use of national guidelines.

The certification also means that Cookeville Regional has a commitment to educate and train the public on signs and symptoms of sepsis.

Post-sepsis syndrome

Post-sepsis syndrome is a condition that affects up to 50 percent of sepsis survivors. It includes physical and/or psychological long-term effects.

The risk of PSS is higher among people who were admitted to an intensive care unit and those who have been in the hospital for extended periods of time.

One way the staff at Cookeville Regional is helping those affected by sepsis and critical illness is by hosting a post critical care/sepsis support group the second Thursday of the month from 6-7 p.m.

The group is for anyone who has previously experienced critical illness or has a family member who has been critically ill.

The meeting is held online at or by dialing 1-646-749-3122, access code 451-642-317.

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