Mum urges others to be vigilant of sepsis

Ria and Hugo

A relieved Stratford mum whose infant son almost died of sepsis has praised the efforts of a close friend for raising awareness of the often-missed condition.

Ria Killmorgan, 37, is urging others to always ask doctors ‘could this be sepsis?’ if they have any worries about a condition, an approach which saved her baby son Hugo’s life.

Ria believes that had she not known of the devastating effects of sepsis and its symptoms through the experiences of her friend and former colleague John McCarthy, her story could have had a much more tragic ending.

John developed sepsis after picking up a seemingly innocuous knock on his leg, whilst on a day out at Cheltenham Races.

Unfortunately the potentially fatal condition was slow to be diagnosed, forcing John to have his leg amputated and developing further long-term problems.

Today John works as an ambassador for the UK Sepsis Trust, raising awareness of the condition and its symptoms among the public and medical professionals.

Hugo was just two weeks old when Ria thought he may have a problem, immediately taking him to a doctor who advised that he should be taken to hospital because he was so young.

However after monitoring Hugo, hospital staff could not find anything wrong and he was discharged.

Ria said: “We took him home and a few days later he was very restless, I took him out of the bath and he was just panting like a dog and I saw that some of his skin was mottled so I called the ambulance straight away.”

Fearing that Hugo could be seriously ill, Ria remembered John’s advice and asked ambulance staff whether sepsis was a possibility.

Ria said: “Most people you meet on the street probably won’t know what sepsis is, I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t know John. When the paramedic came I asked if this could be sepsis and he told me he thought it was. I’m so thankful that the paramedic was willing to listen and accept that it could be sepsis.

“Hugo was put on antibiotics, they were very strong and the doctors were worried that they could affect his kidney function for a while, but thankfully Hugo was OK. This could have been a different story, if I hadn’t known about sepsis through John’s experience and if that paramedic hadn’t been willing to consider it, Hugo could well have died, it was very close, he was so weak.

“I really think John’s efforts to raise awareness of sepsis are working and I would urge anyone to always ask ‘is this sepsis?’ if they’re not sure, it only takes a blood test to check, but it can be catastrophic if it’s not diagnosed.

“The next time I saw John I said thank you for saving my baby’s life, I didn’t know what sepsis was before I knew him, but without John I could be without my baby.”

Now eleven months old, Hugo has gone on to make a full recovery, while John is to launch a bi-monthly sepsis support group in Stratford as he continues his mission to raise awareness.

John said: “I do regular posts on social media about the symptoms of sepsis and Ria picked up on one of those, she called the ambulance again because they didn’t pick up that Hugo had sepsis on his first visit, which is actually quite common. I’m glad that Ria spotted it and it shows that we’re starting to get the message out there, but there’s still more to do and I’m determined to raise more awareness about it locally. Ria told me I saved Hugo’s life, but I’m just the conduit for spreading this information, the diagnosis of sepsis is still hit and miss and although it is getting better, it is still misdiagnosed every day and people present themselves at hospital too late.

“I’ve set myself a target to do 30 events locally and I’ve been going into businesses and organisations and speaking to them about my experiences and what the symptoms are. The support group will also have a clinician there offering information about sepsis, it’s not just for those who have had sepsis, it can be for those who have been bereaved through it or affected in any way.”

John’s first sepsis support group will meet at the Lomas Suite at Stratford Hospital between 6-8pm on Wednesday 17th July.

Adults with sepsis may feel like they have flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis or a chest infection at first, while other early signs such as fever, chills, shivering, fast heartbeat and quick breathing may occur.

Severe signs include feeling dizzy or faint, confusion, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, passing no urine in a day, slurred speech, diarrhoea or having cold, pale and clammy mottled skin.

Fast breathing, suffering fits and convulsions or having mottled bluish or pale skin or a rash that does not fade when you press it are among the symptoms children with sepsis may exhibit.

Other signs in children or babies are not feeding, vomiting repeatedly or not urinating for 12 hours.

Sepsis is a condition that affects around 250,000 people in the UK each year and results in the deaths of 44,000 people, more than breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer combined

It can also leave survivors with life changing physical and psychological problems.

For more information about sepsis and its symptoms visit