Sepsis Patient Benefits from Quick Diagnosis

Frank Zaganjori was unfamiliar with sepsis until it almost took his life last October.

Now, he knows the frightening condition quite well.

What started off as a minor urinary tract infection turned life-threatening in just a handful of hours.

Almost a year later, Zaganjori is just recently back home and still suffering the physical side effects that came in the wake of his diagnosis in the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center Emergency Department. Since September was Sepsis Awareness Month, Zaganjori and his wife, Amy, hope to educate more people about the condition.

“Sepsis is one of the most serious medical conditions that not many people know about,” said Michelle McCool Heatley, RN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Emergency and Ambulatory Services at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. “Getting the right diagnosis is crucial to preventing serious injury or death.”

Several years ago, LHMC formed a multidisciplinary task force co-led by McCool Heatley and James Dargin, MD, a Critical Care Specialist, to educate staff about early recognition and treatment of sepsis. Every year, more than 1 million Americans develop sepsis, according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

In short, sepsis is the body’s immune system gone haywire. A normal physiological immune response – usually triggered by an infection – goes awry, causing widespread inflammation. Sepsis can quickly progress into severe sepsis – or, septic shock as it is often called – when the body’s organs shut down and blood pressure drops to a dangerous level.

That’s exactly what happened to Zaganjori. It started with the chills. He went to bed earlier than usual, but during the night, his wife noticed his temperature was unusually high.

“I made him get up and go to the bathroom, and that’s when I saw things weren’t OK,” she said. “He was incoherent.”

An ambulance rushed Zaganjori to the Lahey’s Emergency Department, and within 20 minutes doctors were treating the 56-year-old IT technician for sepsis.

“I had no idea what sepsis was,” Amy Zaganjori said. “I thought he’d be out of the hospital in a couple days.”

But Zaganjori took a turn for the worse that night and ended up in the Intensive Care Unit .His blood pressure dropped severely and he was in incredible pain.

“I saw people working on me, but I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.

His stay in the hospital totaled five weeks, three of which were spent in the ICU. Then, he was transferred to a rehab facility for another seven months. He arrived back home in June, eight long months later.

Zaganjori is still unable to return to work, and he uses a walker for mobility, but he and his wife credit the medical team for a fast diagnosis and subsequent treatments. 

“We don’t sweat the small stuff anymore,” Amy Zaganjori said. “I am so thankful the doctors at Lahey gave me my husband back.”