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Sepsis Can Attack in Any Form!

Lisa Brandt - March 19, 2018 11:17 AM

An old friend from high school died this week from sepsis. He had Cystic Fibrosis, his immune system was weak, his body was rejecting a double-lung transplant and he couldn’t fight back when sepsis set in.

This is just one way sepsis can attack.

The romantic comedy, The Big Sick, showed another way. Most viewers probably didn’t notice or care that the illness that attacked one of the lead characters was never mentioned. The movie, about clashing cultures learning to get along, is based on the true-life courtship of comedian Kumail Nanjiani, a transplanted Pakistani living in the US, and Emily, the American grad student he starts dating. The couple has a blowout fight and shortly afterward, Emily becomes critically ill.  This puts Kumail in the hospital for several days with Emily's middle-class American parents whom he has never met.

It’s a cute movie and even though the illness is never named, it’s clear that Emily had sepsis. Kumail even mentions to the doctor at one point that she had a foot injury and wonders if that could be related to her critical state. "No, not at all", is the reply. Overlooking sepsis is often how someone dies from sepsis. Meantime the first round of antibiotics didn't working and infection claims her organs one by one. It looks terrible for Emily before it finally looks good again. Once she's well, someone admits that the foot injury is where the entire ordeal began.

Again, sepsis!

However, Nanjiani wanted to tell his own story is up to him. It’s his life and his art. And I'm betting 99.999% of viewers of this movie wouldn't even care that a specific illness wasn't mentioned. They'd just heave a sigh of relief that Emily recovered. I did too but if it had been cancer someone would have said cancer. Heart attack, stroke, a general sense of ennui...they would have been said aloud. As a survivor of sepsis, I only ask for equal time. It didn’t require a long educational monologue about it, just the word.

The trouble with sepsis is that too few people know what it is. Too few people know what it is because those who do know, in many cases, don’t say the word, because, well, too few people know what it is. You might say that The Big Sick isn’t the proper place for education But what is? Kumail Nanjiani nearly lost his love because of sepsis. Surely he’d want to protect others from suffering a similar, or worse, fate.

Lisa Brandt is a broadcaster and author of “How I Almost Died and You Don't Have To: My Sepsis Story” Since sepsis almost took her life in 2011, she made it her mission to educate as many people about it as possible. She also shares stories about sepsis survival and research on her Facebook page, under the title of the book.

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