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Surviving Sepsis

Lisa Böhle contracted sepsis when she was just 24 years old, as a result of a meningococcal infection.
The first time I heard the word sepsis was after I woke up from a coma. It took me weeks to understand that it had almost cost me my life.

Sepsis: the most preventable cause of death in the world.

Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of infectious diseases and is associated with high mortality. Every 2.8 seconds, someone dies as a result of sepsis, according to the Global Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis, or "blood poisoning”, is the body's response to an infection. It can be caused by wounds or urinary tract infections, bacterial meningitis, but also viral infections such as COVID-19 or influenza. Sepsis can lead to organ damage, damage to the immune system, and ultimately organ failure. People with weakened immune systems may be more likely to be affected by sepsis.

“The first time I heard the word sepsis, I had already woken up from the coma and I think it was my mother who told me what happened. I just remember that it didn't seem bad to me. I thought: Well, you were very ill, but I'm sure you'll get better quickly, as always. The nurses were all very surprised when they saw me after the coma, that I was still alive. Some of them, after returning from a two-week vacation, stared at me and I didn't understand why. My mother tried to explain to me that many of them hadn't believed that I would survive."

What do you remember?
“After a few days or weeks, I don't remember exactly, I gradually understood that the whole thing almost cost me my life. And of course, I was super grateful at first and was able to deal with the situation in a relatively relaxed way. Which also surprised many people.

To be honest, I was also surprised myself, because if someone had told me in the past that I would almost die and lose my legs, I would have said, "Alright, then please let me die."

Basically, my body was fighting against itself, and I almost lost the battle. To put it simply. But my body was still strong enough to say, "No, it's not over yet, you can go on living", and I am happy, despite everything. I have everything I need. I have an apartment, I have a great partner by my side, I have a great family, and you have to keep reminding yourself of that.

Of course, I hope that research continues, that more development of medications will take place, so that perhaps such measures as amputation, in the worst case, would no longer be necessary or could be delayed even further.”


Dr. Silvia Dobler, MPH, PMPH

Dr. Silvia Dobler, MPH, PMPH

Septic shock – blood poisoning with massive effect on blood pressure – is an absolute emergency. All experts have to be by the patient's bedside.

 In medicine, in emergency medicine, time is always of the essence, and, with septic shock in particular, time is a matter of survival. If the patient stays at home too long, if they find the right help too late, then it can be too late.

Sepsis generally means blood poisoning, so germs, bacteria, viruses are flushed into the bloodstream. The cause can be pneumonia or an open wound on the leg.

Primarius Priv.-Doz. Dr. Johann Knotzer, MSc

You just take a look at these patients and you know they are in a life-threatening condition.

Symptoms of sepsis are, for example, that the patients are no longer clearly conscious. They are partially clouded. They have a high fever. Their breathing is very shallow, very rapid, they are “hungry for air”. They are clammy, sweaty. This is not the warm sweat you get from the sun, but rather they are pale, have mottled skin, have cold sweats, and feel cold in general. They have low blood pressure. The pulse is racing, and you can barely feel it. 

What to do in case of sepsis?
Sepsis is a medical emergency that requires countermeasures to be taken as quickly as possible. But how do you recognize sepsis? Slurred speech, confusion, difficulty breathing, shivering, high fever, lack of urination, and discolored skin are typical symptoms of sepsis. However, these symptoms may not occur immediately and to the same degree in every patient.

How to prevent sepsis?
The Global Sepsis Alliance points out that sepsis is the most preventable cause of death worldwide. As simple as it may sound, hygiene measures, such as washing hands regularly and applying antiseptic to a scratch or a small wound, or immunization, can go a long way toward preventing sepsis.

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