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March 17, 2022

Infections can spread like wildfire

IU Health Arnett Hospital

Infections can spread like wildfire

Sepsis. Not something most people think about, but it is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals.

A year ago, Randy Mitchell, president of White County Economic Development, did not think much about sepsis. He was concentrating on ways to improve business in Monticello. He was leaving the barber when he missed a step and fell hard on his knees and hands. After a moment of embarrassment, he got up, dusted himself off and went home. A few days later, his knees were still swollen, and his wife convinced him a trip to the doctor was in order. A few X-rays showed no broken bones.

Randy Mitchell

Two weeks later, Mitchell felt like he was coming down with the flu. He went home for lunch but was having trouble responding to his wife’s questions. He promised to come home early to rest and went back to the office. He fell asleep at his desk and was awoken at 6 pm when the phone rang with his wife on the other end wondering where he was. He was unable to carry on a conversation, and his wife thought he seemed delirious. She called 911.

The paramedics thought he was having a stroke. His temperature was over 105 degrees. The emergency department at IU Health White Memorial Hospital took blood samples and a CT scan from head to toe. His white blood count was over 20,000 which signals a massive infection—somewhere. He needed to be transferred to IU Health Arnett as soon as possible for more intensive treatment.

Once at Arnett, Sepsis was identified and Mitchell was placed on a strong antibiotic regimen. The infection was in his blood stream. Cultures were done to determine the strain and the antibiotics were shifted to provide the best defense against his case of sepsis.

With Mitchell on the mend, Thomas Meyer, MD, infectious disease specialist, was still trying to figure out how the infection started in the first place. Mitchell recounted his fall and Meyer investigated his limbs a little closer. It was determined that a scrape under his ankle was the culprit. It was not treated originally with washing and triple antibiotic cream as his other wounds were. As Mitchell shares, “it did not hurt, and I could not see it.”

Mitchell shares that his care was excellent at both hospitals. “We are lucky to have IU Health White Memorial in Monticello and IU Health Arnett in Lafayette. By the time I arrived at Arnett, they had reviewed all my tests from White Memorial. No tests had to be redone and treatment started much sooner.” Which is a good thing because Meyer felt if Mitchell had gone home, he probably would not have survived.

Mitchell feels this is the first time he has honestly faced his own mortality. He walked away with a new purpose as well. The Monticello Fire Department, which provides the ambulance service in White County, is spread thin considering the amount of territory it covers. Mitchell introduced the president of the West Central Region of IU Health to the Mayor of Monticello to discuss funding for the White County paramedicine program.

Mitchell also serves on the board of the West Central Region of IU Health. He is taking a closer look at sepsis numbers for IU Health in the region, especially the timeframe it takes to identify the disease. “When time is of the essences, we can always do better.”

On a side note, Mitchell and his wife now make sure every scratch is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected because, as he knows from personal experience, “infections can spread like wildfire.”

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Thomas L. Meyer, MD

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