Mom Loses Son, Both Feet Due to Sepsis |
sepsis, medical malpractice

Texas Mom Loses Infant Son due to Pregnancy Complication, then Both Feet Due to Sepsis

A Texas mom is speaking out about the serious nature of pregnancy complications and sepsis.  The 30-year-old mom lost her infant son due to placenta accreta, and then developed sepsis.  As a result, doctors had…

A Texas mom is speaking out about the serious nature of pregnancy complications and sepsis.  The 30-year-old mom lost her infant son due to placenta accreta, and then developed sepsis.  As a result, doctors had no choice but to amputate her legs below the knee, and amputate part of her left hand.  While the woman is grateful to be alive, there is no denying how significantly her life has changed as a result of sepsis.

Pregnancy Complication Leads to Sepsis

Callie Colwick was expecting her second child in 2016 when she began to bleed heavily.  She later learned that she had a high-risk pregnancy complication known as placenta accreta.  Placenta accreta is the result of the placenta growing too deeply in the uterine wall.  This results in heavy bleeding and most often, a premature birth.

During healthy pregnancies, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall naturally after the baby is born.  But with placenta accreta, the placenta remains attached, which causes significant blood loss.  Most women with the condition require a Cesarean (c-section) delivery and a hysterectomy shortly thereafter.

Colwick went to the hospital and was told that she could deliver her son at any time, and that it was likely he would not survive.  She was admitted to the pregnancy wing of the hospital, where he had no choice but to wait.  A few weeks later, doctors induced labor and the baby was stillborn.  He weighed only half a pound.

Mother Recalls Harrowing Ordeal

After the delivery, Colwick went in and out of consciousness.  She recalls “burning up” and knew she had a fever.  The doctors packed ice on her to try to bring the fever down.  Her uterus was hemorrhaging, and a trauma doctor was flown in.  Sepsis had developed in her uterus and was spreading throughout her body.  Her lungs and kidneys shut down and large areas of tissue were damaged due to the infection.  Doctors performed a hysterectomy and went to work saving Colwick’s life.

Colwick recalls seeing her legs “black and shriveled up” and says her toes looked like raisins.  At one point, she regained consciousness to learn that she had lost her uterus and her feet.  She spent over a year in intensive care.  She was able to return home in March 2018, but her life would never be the same.

Colwick now says she feels like she is living on “borrowed time.” Now, three years later, Colwick, her husband and their 4-year-old daughter are adjusting to their new life.  Colwick uses a custom wheelchair that was gifted to her after a stranger began a fundraising campaign.  She had previously been denied a custom chair by her insurance.

She is speaking out about her experience in the hope that she can “help and inspire others” who are experiencing something similar to what she has endured.

Sepsis Called Hidden Killer in Recent Study

A recent study published in The Lancet calls sepsis a “hidden killer.” That is because it is very difficult to detect sepsis, especially in a reasonably healthy person.  The study reaffirms that sepsis is the leading cause of death in American hospitals.  Researchers also now say that one in five deaths worldwide are likely the result of sepsis, which means related death rates are above that of cancer.

Researchers estimate that, in 2017, sepsis caused 48.9 million illnesses worldwide, and 11 million deaths.  That accounts for 20 percent of all deaths worldwide.  What makes these numbers even more alarming is the fact that sepsis rates are highest in developing nations.  What’s more, the recent study estimates sepsis rates are double the previous estimates.  One of the researchers involved in the study says,

“We are alarmed to find sepsis deaths are much higher than previously estimated, especially as the condition is both preventable and treatable.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sepsis is responsible for around 1.7 million illnesses among adults in the United States, and one-third of all hospital-related deaths.

What is Sepsis?

Contrary to what many believe, sepsis is not an infection.  It is an overwhelming response to an infection.  Any type of infection – skin, urinary tract, lungs, internal organs – can lead to sepsis.

Your body responds to infection by trying to fight it.  With sepsis, the response triggers a chain reaction that actually damages your body.  Instead of fighting the infection, your body suffers organ failure, tissue damage and, in many cases, death.

Symptoms of Sepsis

Sepsis develops in people who already have some type of infection.  The infection can stem from something as simple as a bug bite, or as significant as influenza or pneumonia.  If you or someone you love has an infection, be aware of the following symptoms:

  • High heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever with shivering
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Extreme pain
  • Clammy skin

If you notice any of these symptoms, get medical attention right away.

How is Sepsis Treated?

Sepsis is treated by a combination of:

  • Antibiotics
  • Ensuring adequate blood flow to organs and extremities
  • Treating the source of the initial infection
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Intravenous fluids

More severe cases may require addition treatments, such as kidney dialysis or breathing assistance with a breathing machine or ventilator.  In cases where tissue damage is significant, doctors may need to perform surgery in order to remove damaged tissue and prevent further spreading.  Sepsis often affects the extremities most harshly, which is why patients often require amputation in order to prevent spreading.

Who is At Risk for Sepsis?

Medically speaking, anyone who has an infection is at risk for sepsis.  Infections that do not heal or begin to get worse should be taken seriously.  There are some people who are at a higher risk, such as:

  • Adults 65 years old or older
  • Children under one year old
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People who have chronic medical conditions like lung disease, cancer, diabetes or kidney disease

Can Sepsis be Prevented?

Sepsis is preventable in many cases.  According to the CDC, patients can reduce their risk of developing sepsis by doing the following:

  • Take care of chronic medical conditions
  • Get any vaccines your doctor recommends
  • Practice good hygiene (especially hand hygiene)
  • Keep any injuries clean and cover them until they heal completely
  • If there is an injury or illness that does not seem to be getting better, talk to your doctor right away
  • Know the symptoms of sepsis and when it is important to get medical attention

As for healthcare providers and hospitals, infection control measures are paramount to reducing the risk of infections escalating.  Hospitals have infection control policies that are part of the standard of care.  Deviating from these standards can cause preventable infections to flourish.  As a result, innocent patients can suffer life-changing or even fatal consequences.

In 2019, a sepsis care study revealed that only 1.5 percent of U.S.  hospitals have a passing grade in terms of sepsis care.  A startling 74.8 percent of  hospitals have a failing grade.  That means that hospitals are not doing enough to prevent sepsis from developing, or to treat it before patients suffer harm.

Medical Negligence May Contribute to Sepsis

Sepsis occurs due to the body’s response to an infection.  While this may seem like it is a naturally-occurring event, it is considered largely preventable.  Medical standards of care dictate that doctors and hospitals monitor patients who have an infection, as well as those at risk of developing sepsis.  Failure to identify and diagnose sepsis or treat it, is a violation of those standards of care.

When sepsis develops in a patient and it could have been prevented, that patient may be the victim of medical negligence.  If the patient suffers harm as a result, he or she may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim.

Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis and failure to properly treat a medical condition may all fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice.  The only way to determine if your situation constitutes medical malpractice is to have an attorney review your case.

If you have questions or concerns about medical malpractice and sepsis, contact  Let our Houston medical malpractice attorney review your case and determine  if you have an actionable claim.  If so, our team can help you build a strong claim, protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve.

To request more information or a free consultation, call at 877-887-4850.  You can also request a consultation online via our contact form.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She works alongside the team at to provide readers with up-to-date information relevant to the healthcare and legal industries.

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