The Faces of Sepsis
Andrew John McDonough - tribute
by Joe McDonough (Andrew's father)In my eyes, I had the perfect life.
On January 29, 2007, my perfect world was turned on its side. My wife and I brought our 14 year old son, Andrew, to the hospital for what we thought was appendicitis. While I certainly hurt for Andrew being in such pain, I knew that a simple operation and some time off of his feet would make Andrew as good as new.
After all, just 48 hours earlier, Andrew had played four soccer games to help his team win the Pennsylvania State Championship. Earlier in that week, Andrew went skiing, had two intense personal training sessions, and attended his high school dance. But, Andrew did not have appendicitis.
He was diagnosed with leukemia, and before the day was over, my 14 year old son would go into something called septic shock and cardiac arrest. How is it possible that I could be standing there watching them do chest compressions on my son trying to revive him when he was so seemingly healthy. It was surreal.
After the doctors and nurses brought Andrew back to life, I asked them what had happened. While I was a little familiar with leukemia, I had no idea what ‘septic shock’ was. One of the doctors told me that ‘septic shock’ was analogous to an infection bomb going off inside my son. It literally made me sick to think that poisonous infection was spreading through my precious child’s body. Andrew was so sick that the Attending Physician told me that my son would not live through that night.
Over the next 166 “bonus days”, Andrew underwent nearly 50 surgical procedures, endured four strokes, one brain aneurysm, a loss of eyesight, hearing issues, meningitis, and numerous other complications. On four occasions, the doctors told us that Andrew would not live through the day. At 1:55pm on July 14, 2007, my perfect world was turned completely upside down as Andrew John McDonough went to Heaven.
Ironically, while most people will say that Andrew died of leukemia, the primary cause of death was infection from a fungal infection called fusarium. Andrew had no leukemic cells in his marrow or his blood after the first round of chemotherapy. While these conditions are related since the leukemia allowed the infections to take hold, the infections turned out to be far more insidious. Naively, I thought doctors simply identified the infection and prescribed the appropriate antidote, if you will. Sadly, we are not that sophisticated yet in our medicine.
To honor God, honor Andrew, and help others, my family and I have started The Andrew McDonough B+ (Be Positive) Foundation (www.BePositive.org) to fight childhood cancers and the infections that go with them, as well as helping families of children with cancer. B+ --- Be Positive --- was my son’s blood type and the way he approached life every day.
Sepsis, in my opinion, is one of the most insidious and deadly things that most people know virtually nothing about. I applaud www.sepsisalliance.com for being an outstanding resource and website center of excellence in this battle.