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Local Boy's Death Inspires State Initiative To Fight Sepsis In Hospitals

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It is estimated that 5,000 to 8,000 New Yorkers die from sepsis infections each year, but the story of one Queens family's loss spurred state officials to make the fight against sepsis a priority. NY1's Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

Since they can remember, Rory Staunton's parents say he was a fighter for the underdog, passionate about civil rights. At nine, he wrote a poem about child soldiers in Africa, asking "Why am I safe?" — but it turns out he wasn't.

"We were looking forward to seeing the man he was going to become, because he was such a terrific 12-year-old kid," says Orlaith Staunton, Rory's mother.

Rory died of septic shock on April 1, 2012. Days earlier, he scraped his elbow at school, came home ill and got steadily worse. He was taken to the emergency room at NYU Langone Medical Center and sent home, only to return hours later.

The Stauntons learned only after Rory's death, that it was due to to a sepsis infection.

"It really, really, really caused us even more pain," says Orlaith Staunton.

"The more we've learned about sepsis, I think the angrier we've become," says Ciaran Staunton, Rory's father.

It is that anger and grief that pushed the Stauntons to speak out about sepsis in Rory's honor.

Due in part to their advocacy, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made the sepsis fight a priority. On January 29, Dr. Nirav Shah, the state health commissioner, unveiled "Rory's Regulations."

Shah said at the time, "New York will become the first state in the nation to require our hospitals to adopt best practices for the early identification and treatment of sepsis."

Many hospitals in the city, like St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, take part in the Stop Sepsis Collaborative and already have some protocols in place.

"So when a nurse enters abnormal vital signs, the system will tell the physician. It'll give a message saying, 'Hey, this patient may possibly be septic,'" says Dr. Jeffrey Rabrich, the medical director of St. Luke's Emergency Department.

Rabrich is seing results, saying, "Our collaborative has been able to reduce mortality by 22 percent."

But for the Stauntons, the new state regulations represent a call to an even higher standard.

"If these regulations were in place, Rory would be alive today," says Orlaith Staunton.

Rory's Regulations take effect in May. Each hospitals must submit their sepsis plan for review by the state Department of Health before July.

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