Raising awareness of the sepsis danger in pregnancy

Raising awareness of the sepsis danger in pregnancy
It seems to me that there should be energetic campaigns to increase knowledge about septicaemia, writes Mary Kenny

Sepsis, or septicaemia, is recognised as a real and present threat to health in Britain – where some 37,000 people a year die from the infection.

To its credit, the London Daily Mail has been running a campaign to “End the Sepsis Scandal”. Day after day, they’ve reported on cases of missed diagnoses of sepsis, to which new-born babies can be notably vulnerable (a thousand deaths a year occur among children and infants due to sepsis).

The object of the newspaper campaign is “to increase awareness of the dangers of sepsis”. Health workers, including doctors, are often under-informed about septicaemia, and fail to spot the danger signs.

It’s complicated because the symptoms can be common to a range of less fatal illnesses: a high temperature, chills, a fast heartbeat, fast breathing, dizziness, nausea or even diarrhoea. Sepsis can also strike when someone is already in hospital, and picks up an infection from, say, a catheter.

Raising awareness, among the medical profession, and the public, that sepsis kills 37,000 yearly is surely a step towards improving the situation.

And in the wake of Savita Halappanavar’s tragic death, it seems to me that there should be energetic campaigns in Ireland, as well as in Britain, to increase knowledge about septicaemia. The mainstream media in Ireland seemed so focused on the abortion issue in Savita’s case that the hazards of this dangerous infection seemed almost to be side-lined.

Untold side of Verdun story

February 21 marks the start of the centenary of the battle that has scarred French memory indelibly – Verdun.

It was the only battle of the First World War that France fought alone. It was the longest battle of the 1914-18 war, and there were massive casualties. The numbers are sometimes disputed – one historian claims a million men, French and Germans, died for this patch of land, fought back and forth. France’s official casualties were 337,231 of whom 162,308 were confirmed deaths.

The impact of Verdun was huge, and long-lasting. France would subsequently do anything to avoid another war, and many of the French – probably the majority – thought occupation by Germany in 1940 was a lesser evil than a repeat of Verdun.

On the British and German side, priests as chaplains were given officer status, but the French priests – often country lads themselves – served as ordinary soldiers because the French state was secularist. Their story still hasn’t been fully told.

The disclosure that Pope John Paul II had an intense – though unconsummated – friendship with a married woman for more than 30 years makes me think of him as more of a human being, not less. 

Uplifting story of Dean du Plessis

There was an inspiring interview on BBC World Service last week with the world’s first – and so far, only – blind cricket commentator, Dean du Plessis, of Zimbabwe.

Mr du Plessis, aged 39, was born with serious tumours in his head, and it was predicted at birth that he could only live for a brief time.

But he survived, had medical care, and is today renowned all over the sports world for his ability to describe, on air, the course of a cricket match.

It is often said that when a person loses one of their vital senses, another becomes more sensitive in compensation; and Dean du Plessis is able to hear cadences and small, subtle sounds that indicate just how the ball is thwacked, hit or missed.

He usually works with another commentator to hand, as he has no vision; but he is remarkably accomplished as a highly sensitised sports commentator in his own right. It was uplifting to hear his story.