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1st-in-nation sepsis curriculum now available to NY schools

New York State

It is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, yet many people have no idea what sepsis is. That is why the Rory Staunton Foundation and New York State Education Department have created a first-in-the-nation sepsis prevention curriculum that is available to health educators across the state.

Sepsis is an extreme response to infection. According to New York State, it currently claims the lives of more Americans than AIDS, breast cancer, prostate cancer and stroke combined - between 250,000 and 500,000 annually.

Rory Staunton Foundation Co-founder Orlaith Staunton lost her son Rory to sepsis after he received a cut in gym class in 2012. She says using storytelling is used to help deliver the message to younger kids, for example, they have written a book called “Ouch, I’ve Got A Cut.”

"Which is a story of three little children in the park," Staunton said. "One falls down and he goes with his Mom to the bathroom, where she cleans the wound. So we're putting the lesson into the little minds that if they spot a cut, do something about it."

Staunton says a large number of the lessons deal with basic first aid and the modules grow with children through 12th grade, eventually focusing on self-advocacy and health literacy. She hopes kids will share this information with their parents.

"My kids came home and told me all about recycling. They tell me everything they learn in school," she said. "So if I had had that information when my son died - and I've been speaking with other parents of children who have died - if we had known about something called sepsis, then we would have asked about sepsis. We would have said to the doctors, 'Would you please check for sepsis.' I mean, I checked my son for meningitis. I checked him for everything, but I didn't know about sepsis."

Staunton said parents need to know a septic reaction to an infection can kill you very fast. The University of Pittsburgh Schools of health sciences came out with a report that showed for every hour it took clinicians to test for infection, measure the sign of tissue stress and administer antibiotics, the odds of the patient dying increased by four percent.

The curriculum can be accessed on the Education Department’s webpage.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.