Rory Staunton was diving for a ball during his New York middle school gym class when he fell, cutting his arm in the process.
According to People magazine, the 12-year-old’s gym teacher jumped in to help; he put two Band-Aids on the wound.
That turned out to be a tragic mistake.
The teacher covered up the cut, but he didn’t sanitize it first.
The fall happened on a Wednesday in March of 2012. The next day, he began feeling pain in his leg and had a fever that spiked to 104 degrees.
His parents took him to a pediatrician. He was then taken to NYU Langone Medical Center’s emergency room, though, when he started feeling worse. There, he was treated for dehydration with IV fluids.
Rory was sent home after that with Tylenol to treat his high fever and medication for his upset stomach and nausea. But none of it worked.
The 12-year-old was brought back to the ER on Friday when he continued to get worse. It was then when doctors discovered he wasn’t sick from dehydration. He was suffering from sepsis, which developed into septic shock. It came from an infection caused by his untreated cut.
Sadly, it was too late to save Rory. He died in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Even though his parents, Orlaith and Ciaran Staunton, had alerted the doctors about the cut, People reported, they still had a hard time diagnosing the boy earlier because the symptoms of sepsis can mimic other conditions, like in Rory’s case, dehydration, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
As People magazine reports, sepsis is a deadly killer that affects 30 million people globally each year, including six million babies and children. It’s the leading cause of death in hospitals and takes more than 250,000 lives a year in the U.S.
Rory’s mother, Orlaith, talked to People about her son’s death. She said:
“It’s just astounding. When Rory died, I thought, ‘This has to be something really rare.’ Our son was 160 lbs. He was nearly 6 ft. tall. I did not think there was anything that could kill him within four days that I wouldn’t know about. And there was. And it’s the biggest killer of children in the world.”
She and her husband have worked hard to alert and educate parents about sepsis by creating the Rory Staunton Foundation. Orlaith explained why to People:
“We all know that our children didn’t need to die and we don’t want other parents to go through what we went through. It’s a life sentence and we want to make sure other families don’t have to go through it.”
Rory’s parents have also successfully petitioned the state of New York to establish a new level of safety protocols for screening and treatment at hospitals. Known as “Rory’s Regulations,” New York is the first state to have such established protocols.
The regulations have already helped save over 5,000 lives in New York, and other states have pledged to follow suit in establishing a similar protocol.
Orlaith said of their mission, according to People:
“We’re not looking for a cure for it. The cure is antibiotics and fluid. But the cure is also identification. And we need to give that knowledge and that power to parents, to children, and we need them to be able to be their own advocates. We’re not waiting for this amazing cure — we know the cure.”
Early treatment is the key to stopping sepsis from progressing into a deadly infection. According to Sepsis.org, it’s essential that all wounds be cleaned as quickly as possible and be kept clean, as bacteria has a chance to enter your body from every cut, scrape, or break in the skin.
Sepsis.org provides other safety tips, which include:
- Always washing your hands before touching an open wound. If possible, wearing clean disposable gloves.
- If the wound is deep, gaping, or has jagged edges and can’t be closed easily, it may need stitches. See your health care provider as soon as possible.
- If the wound does not appear to need stitches, rinsing it and the surrounding area with clean (not soapy) water.
- Gently running water over the wound to help remove any dirt or debris that may be inside. If you believe that there is still debris in the wound, this should be checked by a health care provider.
- If desired, applying an antibiotic cream or ointment.
- Covering the wound to protect it from dirt if necessary.
Sepsis.org also recommends watching closely for signs of infections, which include:
- Redness around the wound.
- Skin around the wound warm to touch.
- Increased pain, and/or discharge from the wound.
If these symptoms occur, it is important to contact a doctor.
As for the Stauntons, while they are grateful that they are able to help others, the pain from the loss or Rory is still there. Orlaith told People:
“There’s a reward for our work in knowing that we’re helping people and working to make a difference in the world, which is what Rory wanted to do and what our daughter wants to do. But there’s no comfort in our grief. He’s not here.”
Nevertheless, they will continue doing what Rory would want them to do.