Our Nurse of the Week is Carol Fowler Durham, 63, a professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Nursing who was diagnosed with sepsis in 2010. She was in the middle of a faculty meeting when she began violently shaking, but she didn’t understand what was wrong at the time. Now seven years later and fully recovered, Fuller is helping raise awareness about sepsis, the deadly condition that nearly killed her.
When Durham began to feel symptoms of sepsis, she didn’t realize that her body had launched an attack on itself. Confused by the reaction she was having, she left her meeting and drove herself home. Her condition later worsened and her husband, Stephen, drove her to the emergency room where she was placed behind a long queue of patients.
By the time Durham was seen by staff in the emergency room, she had a high fever and chills which was enough to admit her. Staff still didn’t recognize what her symptoms meant, allowing her condition to worsen overnight. After her blood pressure plummeted, her medical team finally realized that she had sepsis and was moving into septic shock, a condition with a high mortality rate.
“Sepsis occurs when a massive immune response to a bacterial infection gets into the blood,” Durham tells People.com. “The condition can quickly cause tissue damage, organ failure, or death.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the US and about 250,000 die from it.
Durham was finally taken to the intensive care unit where she received antibiotics to stave off her raging infection. She responded to the antibiotics and began to improve but doctors were never able to determine the cause of her sepsis. Now fully recovered, Durham has a passion to get the word out about the deadly condition and make medical professionals aware of how to recognize and treat sepsis.
Durham now speaks to groups around the country teaching health care audiences, publishers, medical simulation vendors, and others to recognize sepsis and how to fight it. Quick and proper intervention are key and Durham drives that message home every chance she gets.
To learn more about Carol Fowler Durham and her experience surviving septic shock and becoming an advocate for the dangerous condition, visit here.