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A personal message on #sepsis from our lead medic, Dr Colin Begg. #stopsepsisnow

“Twenty years ago today, my wee cousin, student buddy, and all-round cool dudette, Lorna Mackay, died of fulminant meningococcal sepsis. She was 4 weeks short of her 19th birthday. We didn’t have such hip phrases back in the 90s, but she was my sista from another mista (she would call me a dick for using that… I can hear her laughing at me) and I still grieve for the adventures we never got to share. I don’t even have a photo to hand to post here, because my student photos of Lorna exist in a pre-digital shoebox in my hall cupboard. Lorna was never short of a joke or an opinion, so I imagine that she would have been a very active Facebooker.

4 weeks after Lorna died, I sat my medical school finals. By some weird irony there was an essay question on meningococcal disease which, having read everything there was to read about the topic, I aced. In some subconscious way, I think Lorna’s death steered me to my eventual choice of a career in ICU medicine. This settling of scores is something that I only recently acknowledged to myself.

For at least a decade, I struggled to process the random cruelty of her death. As a doctor, I took this failure of my newly-learnt modern medicine very personally. I coped by the many kindnesses and patience of family and friends. Over the years, I have treated many people with sepsis, and together with colleagues we saved many lives. But we also lost patients and I only hope my personal experience made me a more compassionate doctor in those hellish situations.

Through advances in immunisation, early recognition and intensive care, the number of cases of meningococcal sepsis in the UK has fallen by more than half since 1998. Death is a rarer event. But sepsis remains a threat: bugs like Meningococcus W and Invasive Group A Streptococcus are on the rise. Five years ago, when my pal Fi Agnew died of Strep sepsis, enough was enough and with her husband Craig and other friends we set up FEAT to help stop sepsis. Today I’m making a donation to sepsis research in Lorna’s memory. It’s the only practical thing I can do. If you would like to do the same then please do so via the following websites.

www.featuk.org.uk
www.meningitis.org

That was a long post, sorry, thanks for reading. I’m off back to work.”