Mom Shares 'Red Tracking' After Boy Fell & Cut His Arm That's Actually a Sign of Sepsis

Close-up on Alexandra Ruddy's son's wrist
Alexandra Ruddy/Facebook

Alexandra Ruddy took to Facebook on June 2 to share a story -- and a heartfelt warning -- she hoped other parents near and far would hear. It started benignly enough, after a fall at the zoo caused her 8-year-old son to hurt his hand. Ruddy cleaned and bandaged his wounds, and did her best to stay on top of things to avoid an infection. She thought they'd done a pretty good job of it too -- until she spotted something on his wrist that caused her to take a second look.

  • At first, Ruddy said the wounds didn't look infected but they had gotten bigger. Then one day, she saw it: a strange red "tracking" along his vein.

    It was enough to probably cause any parent to wonder; but Ruddy didn't have to. Thanks to a friend who had showed her something similar years prior, she knew right away what it likely was: sepsis.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sepsis is the body's extreme response to infection and is considered a serious medical emergency. It triggers a chain reaction throughout the body, and without treatment, the CDC reports that sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and in some cases, death. 

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  • Luckily, Ruddy was well aware of the severity, and noticing it was also on his elbow, she wasn't about to wait another minute to have it checked out.

    "This is blood poisoning/sepsis. It isn’t something you can 'leave' until Monday when the doctors are back in the office," she wrote in her post.

    Still, she admits that when she marched him right down to the doctor, a part of her felt "a bit silly" -- perhaps on the off-chance she'd misread the signs. But once the doctor got a look at her son's wrist and elbow, she says he commended her on her swift reaction. It wasn't long before her son was put on a round of antibiotics, which helped clear up the infection with time.

  • That mama bear instinct paid off big time, but she says she never would have known the warning signs had she not learned them from her friend.

    Now, she's hoping her post will help other parents spot the warning signs too -- and perhaps even save a life.

    Since sharing her story on June 2, her post has racked up more than 41,000 shares and hundreds of thank-yous from parents who admit they never knew the signs or the risks of sepsis.

    "Well done, thanks for sharing," wrote one mom. "Great advice!"

    "Wow, I wouldn't have realized either," wrote another. "Thanks for sharing!"

    One person also shared the story of Tom Ray, a UK man who contracted sepsis in 1999 at the age of 38. In that case, the effects of the blood poisoning wreaked havoc on his body and ultimately caused him to lose his arms and legs. He was recently profiled by the BBC as a means of spreading awareness about the condition.

  • Though considered rare, severe sepsis affects nearly one million Americans each year, and it's estimated that 15 to 30% of those victims will die.

    Infants, children, the elderly, and those with serious injuries or medical problems (such as AIDS, diabetes, or liver disease) are at an especially high risk, according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

    "If you spot this red line running from a wound along the vein get yourself/ your child seen straight away," Ruddy wrote. "Hopefully my post might help someone the way my friend’s post from 2 years ago helped me."

    Although she admitted being reluctant to share her story publicly, she wrote that it was ultimately at the behest of her husband that she did. Judging by the public response so far, we're willing to bet she's grateful she did.