'He was gone in minutes' - Broadcaster Aisling O'Rourke remembers her father on World Sepsis Day

Tuesday marks World Sepsis Day, with almost 15,000 cases in Ireland every year
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.34 13 Sep 2022

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'He was gone in minutes' - Bro...

'He was gone in minutes' - Broadcaster Aisling O'Rourke remembers her father on World Sepsis Day

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.34 13 Sep 2022

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One woman who lost her father to sepsis has said her biggest regret is not spending his final night talking with him.

Broadcaster and podcaster Aisling O'Rourke was speaking as Tuesday marks World Sepsis Day.

She lost her father John to the condition at the age of 67 in November 2020.


There are almost 15,000 cases of sepsis in Ireland every year, resulting in 3,000 deaths.

Sepsis is when your immune system overreacts to an infection, and starts to damage your body's own tissues and organs.

It is sometimes called septicaemia or blood poisoning.

Aisling told The Pat Kenny Show she didn't fully understand the disease until it was close to home.

"Since 2018 he had a condition known as AL Amyloidosis.

"So he had undergone chemotherapy, immunotherapy and was severely compromised in terms of his immune system.

"2020, obviously we all know what happened that year, so we were being extra careful at home to make sure that COVID didn't enter the house."

Aisling said on November 13th that year he went to his GP for a routine B12 injection.

"He hadn't been feeling that well and mentioned it, and was told to go home and rest.

"But as the day went on, his condition deteriorated and he just really became unwell.

"By the time I arrived home in and around 4.30/5, my mum at that stage had already phoned his medical team - and the advice was 'Get him to A&E'".

"This looks like sepsis"

Following a number of tests, he was sent home with a minor infection.

Aisling said her father then went home, watched the rugby and went to bed. But a phone call at 7.30am the following morning changed everything.

"It was a doctor in A&E to say that he had to come straight back in, that the lab had found an infection in his blood.

"My mum answered the phone, she woke me up - we went down to my dad's room [and] realised that we were able to wake him but he wasn't really compos mentis."

John O'Rourke John O'Rourke. Picture via @aislingmakesstories on Instagram

Paramedics then arrived and "they said to us that this looks like sepsis, and at that stage they started sepsis protocol".

Aisling said she has one regret about the night before.

"In the years of caring for dad - and even my own grandmother - both my mother and I, and relatives, we would have sat up all night making sure that the person was OK and just checking in.

"We had done that over the years with dad.

"Had it been suggested, that would have been how we would have responded.

"And unfortunately we lost those hours, there's no two ways around it".

"Just an awful position"

She said she knew it was bad while talking to the paramedic.

"I think I knew straight away - when the paramedic said to me in the bedroom 'This to me looks like sepsis', I had a gut reaction that it was bad.

"I didn't know what sepsis was, I didn't have an understanding  of it - but I knew, given how frail he was, I knew it wasn't going to be good".

They were then called down to the hospital a short time later.

"He himself looked distressed, he wasn't able to speak - but we could see that he could understand what was going on.

"He was looking to hold our hands and grab on to us, and he looked frightened - it was just an awful position for any of us to have been in".

Sepsis The symptoms of Sepsis

Aisling recalls: "I was in the room when my maternal grandmother passed away in her own bed at home.

"I remember how dignified and peaceful it was, and this was not that.

"I don't know how long we had in the room with him, it probably was about 15 or 20 minutes, it felt like seconds.

"They said that they could try and ventilate him, but it was unlikely that he would survive the procedure and it would only add to his pain and discomfort.

"So that was a relatively easy decision for us: we said no.

"If this is the time, let him go with dignity - and he was gone in a matter of minutes", she added.

More information on sepsis can be found here

Main image: Aisling O'Rourke with her father, John. Picture: Supplied

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