The tragic case of Rory Staunton, the 12-year-old Sunnyside, Queens boy who died of septic shock last April after being sent home from the emergency room at NYU Langone Medical Center, has resulted in the introduction by Governor Andrew Cuomo this week of powerful new emergency room measures that could save thousands of lives.
During his State of the State message this week, Cuomo is expected to announce that every hospital in New York must adopt new measures to identify sepsis in patients, including the introduction of a new countdown clock to begin treatment within an hour of spotting it, a state official told The New York Times. Cuomo’s action stems directly from the case of Rory, whose parents, Ciaran and Orlaith, are originally from Ireland.
Sepsis is an illness in which the body has a severe response to bacteria or other germs, overwhelming the immune system. Something as simple as a cut can cause it, which is what happened in Rory’s case.
It’s estimated that Cuomo’s new guidelines on sepsis awareness and detection could save between 5,000 to 8,000 lives in New York State each year and reduce the long-term costs of the condition.
Cuomo’s office is also expected to announce that state regulators are developing procedures for parents to “play a meaningful and informed role” in decisions made about care for their children, according to the governors press office.
Rory’s parents Ciaran, originally from Co. Mayo, and Orlaith, originally from Co. Tipperary, are well known members of New York’s Irish business and political circles, and have responded with enthusiasm to the announcement, a comprehensive response to the dangers of sepsis that they are calling Rory’s Law.
“It’s great news,” Ciaran Staunton told the Irish Voice. “The governor is leading on the issue. Since we found out that our son Rory had died of sepsis, a condition that we had never heard of before, we reached out to everyone we could in political life and we found the governor’s office very receptive to meeting us.”
Responding to the Staunton’s request to publicly highlight the dangers of sepsis, Cuomo’s health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, organized a conference on the issue last November, inviting national authorities to contribute to the panel.
“People are seeing that one of the largest killers in the United States is a word that no one even knows,” said Staunton. “Some describe it as the third largest killer in the nation.”
At the time of Rory’s discharge from NYU his parents were not informed that the results of his blood tests had not yet come back yet. Had the results been received in time they would have indicated that Rory was becoming critically ill, but the Stauntons only learned about the test results when they received a laboratory bill after Rory’s death.
“We will be tortured for the rest of our lives that we brought our son home from hospital and he lay dying on our couch,” says Staunton.
“They never told us about the tests. Part of what we hope will pass as a part of Rory’s Law is the right of parents who should know what is happening to their children under hospital and emergency rule care.”
Staunton says that transparent emergency care should be part of the complete package under a stronger Rory’s Law, meaning that when parents bring a child into the emergency ward there should be a number of set criteria that must be met, involving and clearly explaining to the parents what medical decisions are being made.
“Parents are a child’s first line of defense in hospital and emergency room situations. They have to be made aware of the dangers that the child may face,” said Staunton.
Those who knew him know that Rory Staunton wanted to change the world. He was very active politically and sophisticated beyond his years. He ran a campaign in his local school to encourage his fellow students say no to the use of the “retard” word. He also took a stand against bullying.
“We even found a letter he had written to the North Korean government on his computer about their starving people,” Staunton reveals. “We always knew that he would do great things. The unfortunate thing is that he had to die to do them.
“Rory could have been saved. He didn’t have to die.”