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RI student spreads awareness after dad's hospital infection

Four years ago, a young woman lost her father to an infection he contracted while in Rhode Island Hospital for esophageal cancer. Now that young woman wants to spread the word about the dangers of hospital infections and specifically the condition known as sepsis. Her father died after going into septic shock twice, the second time proved fatal. The family was told by doctors that the man beat the cancer and had a new lease on life. Doctors recommended the 48-year-old man undergo surgery to remove the part of his esophagus that had been infected by the cancer.

The family was relieved and thought the worst of his health conditions were behind them, unbeknownst to them the worst was just beginning. The man contracted two infections while in the hospital, both known as superbugs. The MRSA and C-Difficile both led to a severe blood infection called sepsis. Within only a few days the man became unrecognizable to his daughter due to the buildup of fluids in his system. The family struggled with their loss and eventually tried to understand it through knowledge gained by researching the topic.

The man's daughter claims the hospital could have done more to protect her father, including limiting the number of visitors and medical staff members going into his room and requiring those who did to wear protecting gowns, masks and gloves. She wants to spread awareness of this common enemy and speaks out about her and her father's story in an effort to save lives. She is currently a college student and took her experience and loss to a video camera and produced an 11-minute educational video on sepsis.

The film won the Providence College Student Film Festival, and although her father is no longer with them, he would be proud, said his daughter. The hospital was contacted regarding the family's story and provided a statement, which in part said the 'Rhode Island Hospital has strict protocols in place designed to prevent patients from acquiring or transmitting hospital-acquired infections, including sepsis, MRSA and C-Diff." Clearly these protocols did not protect the 48-year-old father.

Hospital infections are a leading cause of death for many hospital patients and the topic has garnered much attention in research studies. These studies often result in changes to hygiene and sterility procedures at hospitals, such as requiring the wearing of gowns, gloves and masks for specific at-risk patients, but unless those procedures are followed they cannot do much to protect patients from acquiring dangerous and deadly infections. There was no indication on whether the family chose to pursue a medical malpractice claim in the wrongful death of the father and husband.

Source: ABC 6 Providence, RI, "Local girl turns personal tragedy into awareness," Alexandra Crowley, Nov. 5, 2012

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