Pandemic emphasizes importance of Josslyn’s law

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INDIANAPOLIS — The story of an 18-month-old girl from Indiana is saving lives years after her death from sepsis.

Josslyn’s law was enacted in 2019 but the pandemic is emphasizing the need.

Anyone can get sepsis and it can be caused by a number of different infections, including COVID-19.

This law helps detect sepsis early.

“She never knew a stranger,” said Trevor O’Hern as he described his niece, Josslyn. “She was very friendly to everybody; she loved to make people laugh.”

Josslyn, 18 months, didn’t let much get her down. That’s one of the reasons her family wasn’t able to see how serious her condition was in 2015.

“The day she became symptomatic, my sister believed that she was teething,” explained O’Hern.

She had a fever and was acting off. Her family thought to take her to the hospital and even drove there. They didn’t take her in because her fever had broken and she was asleep.

“Little did they know, when your temperature drops when you are septic that’s usually a bad sign of your body giving up,” said O’Hern.

Josslyn was unresponsive the next morning and ended up dying of sepsis caused by a Group B Strep infection.

“There’s nothing to lose if you go, but there is a whole lot to lose if you don’t,” said O’Hern, urging people to go to the hospital even if you may not be sure it is serious.

In the years since Josslyn’s death, her family fought for Josslyn’s law — which puts screening protocols in place for sepsis and other measures in place to stop people from dying of sepsis.

“Because we know early treatment of sepsis actually saves lives,” said IU Health Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Michele Saysana. “So, if we get antibiotics quickly in patients who have signs of sepsis, then we will potentially impact lives.”

Dr. Michele Saysana said it will take about three years before the data can determine if Josslyn’s law is working.

Right now, Saysana is concentrating on getting people vaccinated to prevent infections that cause sepsis and getting them to go to the doctor if they are sick.

However — the pandemic is making some people reluctant to get treated.

“We don’t want you to put off getting care because you are scared of COVID-19,” said Dr. Saysana.

“If you think something is up, do not hesitate to take them to the emergency room,” said O’Hern. “And tell them; tell the doctors I’m concerned about sepsis.”

Some of the signs of sepsis include fever, fatigue, difficulty breathing and skin discoloration.

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