Lucinda Smith, a 43-year-old attorney and mother of two in the United Kingdom, was gardening in March of last year when she suffered a minor scrape on her hand. After feeling pain in her shoulder she visited her general practitioner, who diagnosed a pinched nerve and sent her home with anti-depressants to relax her and advice to visit a physiotherapist, reports the Telegraph. But three days later she was vomiting and in significantly more pain, and her fingers and arm were red and swollen, so she saw another doctor, who sent her to the emergency room. It was there, after a simple blood test, that Smith was diagnosed with sepsis, sent to critical care, and put on intravenous antibiotics. Days later, she died of toxic shock triggered by the sepsis, reports ITV.
"If she'd been given the test and had her blood pressure taken when she first complained of feeling unwell I'm convinced she could have been saved," says her mother. Sepsis is a complication that can arise from an infection and, if untreated, quickly become life-threatening. With cases on the rise, the CDC recently launched a campaign to make the general public more aware of its symptoms—including fever or chills, elevated heart rate, confusion, and pain—and thus more likely to ask for a test when in doubt. At a press briefing, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said he almost lost his infant son to sepsis 20 years ago and that "recognition and treatment against sepsis is a race against time," CBS News reports. (This UK student nearly died of sepsis after forgetting to remove a tampon.)