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Indiana family creates "Josslyn's Law" after their baby dies due to sepsis

Posted at 6:35 PM, Jun 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-06 18:35:27-04

MUNCIE — It all happened so fast.

"The night before, she had had a fever. And she was 18 months, so I just thought she was teething," Jessica O'Hearn, Josslyn's mother, said.

O'Hearn gave her baby Josslyn Tylenol and her fever went down. The family was at O'Hearn's mother's house when they went to bed, thinking Josslyn would be better by morning.

Josslyn was found dead in her crib the next day.

"I woke up to her [O'Hearn's mother] screaming that Josslyn was dead," O'Hearn said.

"The whole shock of it, to just wake up and for her to be gone. It's still hard," O'Hearn said.

It turns out, the one-year-old had strep and died from sepsis. Josslyn's mother had no idea what sepsis was at the time.

Nearly 300,000 people die from sepsis each year in the United States. That's one every two minutes.

Statistics show more people die from sepsis than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined.

"It's an infection that basically goes rogue," O'Hearn informed RTV6.

Anyone can contract sepsis, and almost any infection can lead to it.

That's why people like O'Hearn might not recognize its symptoms. Such as fever, chills, high heart rate, rash, or confusion. Many of these — compatible with other conditions — making it that more difficult to diagnose.

Experiencing this tragedy firsthand, Josslyn's family went to work to fight for awareness and action.

They contacted their Indiana State Rep. Kevin Mahan, D-District 31.

"Originally it was planned to be an hour," Trevor O'Hearn, Josslyn's uncle, said of their meeting with Rep. Mahan. "But it turned into almost three hours just of him listening to what we had to say."

They drafted a bill in January, and Governor Holcomb signed it into law, taking effect July 1st.

Named "Josslyn's Law," it establishes statewide protocol guidelines to screen patients for sepsis, not just at hospitals but all health care facilities.

Right now, there are no standards for pediatric screening or treatment.

Annette Handy, Indiana Hospital Association Clinical Director, said because of the O'Hearn family lives will be saved.

Given only 58% of adults in the US have actually heard the word sepsis.

"I don't want any other family to have to go through what we have had to go through."
Jessica O'Hearn

Sepsis is the largest killer of children. More than 5 million die each year worldwide.

The Indiana State Department of Health will be responsible for developing and implementing the new protocol training.