Sunnysider fights sepsis fatalities after death of son, 12

Ciaran Staunton has been fighting to make sepsis a national issue since his son's death. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Sunnysider Ciaran Staunton has raised the banner for numerous causes over the years, but his battle to eliminate sepsis, which his 12-year-old son Rory died of last year, has been the most difficult for him.

“It’s much easier when you’re doing it for someone else,” Staunton said. “It’s harder when you say it’s because your son died.”

At the end of March, Rory fell in the gym at his school and cut his arm. When the cut turned into pain in the leg and vomiting, Ciaran Staunton and his wife Orlaith took their son to their pediatrician, who recommended Rory go to NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan for rehydration. The hospital rehydrated Rory and released him, but blood tests — unseen by the doctor and not complete until after Rory’s release — revealed a darker story.

“Everything in his stats said, ‘This child is seriously ill,’” Ciaran Staunton said.

Rory’s condition quickly worsened, with blotches appearing on his body. The pediatrician sent him back to the hospital, where he was put into the intensive care unit. The doctors attempted to revive Rory three times before he died April 1.

“I never heard of sepsis until my son was dead,” Ciaran Staunton said.

Sepsis is a medical condition in which an infection causes a reaction in the immune system that leads to full-body inflammation. This inflammation can cause the blood to clot, reducing blood flow to the limbs and internal organs and leading to organ failure. While the condition can be caused by something as simple as a cut or a bug bite, it can be cured with antibiotics if quick action is taken. Despite this, sepsis is the worldwide pediatric killer and kills more people in the United States in one year than AIDS, prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.

Sepsis is characterized by a high temperature, high pulse rate, low blood pressure, chills, confusion, light-headedness and skin mottling.

As the co-founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, Ciaran Staunton has argued on behalf of undocumented Irish immigrants, and as the owner of the Molly Bloom’s pub on Queens Boulevard, he has helped fellow business start-ups to find landlords and replace their iron gates. Shortly after same-sex marriage was passed in New York state, he held a raffle for a free reception for a same-sex couple at his pub.

In his brief life, Rory followed in his dad’s footsteps. He led a campaign at his school to stop his fellow students from using the word “retarded” and wrote a letter, unsent at the time of his death, to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un asking why the country had such a large army but starving people.

“If one of us had died of sepsis, Rory would be here doing the interview,” Ciaran Staunton said.

In the summer, Ciaran Staunton met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah. Through pooling input from New York hospitals and sepsis experts around the country, Shah oversaw the development of new standards to improve the hospital system’s response to sepsis, facilitating quick diagnosis and treatment.

Under the new standards, called “Rory’s Regulations,” hospitals will adopt protocols for early screening of sepsis, a process to identify and document the individuals ready for treatment, and guidelines for early delivery of antibiotics. Another set of regulations is aimed at improving the flow of information from the hospital labs to the care providers when taking tests, as well as between parents and guardians of pediatric patients, among other policies to better serve pediatric patients.

These standards were announced via an executive order from Cuomo and will go into effect June 1.

While some states have shown interest in adopting similar sepsis standards, Ciaran Staunton is working to get the condition addressed as a national issue. Both U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) knew Rory and Ciaran Staunton is hoping they can bring attention to the issue.

Ciaran Staunton said as a result of news stories about Rory’s death, parents have written to him telling him how the stories made them realize their child had sepsis and saved them. While he is grateful, Ciaran Staunton said he, his wife and Rory’s now 11-year-old sister Kathleen still deeply feel their loss.

“Kathleen said, ‘It’s a pity someone hadn’t done that for Rory,’” Ciaran Staunton said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 12:32 am, February 22, 2013
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Reader feedback

andrew gerety from sepsis says:

Dr. Jay Pravda, Dr. Robert J. Gerety, and Dr. Gerome Shentag have formed a company called, "Therashock." They have discovered what may cause Sepsis and have developed a proposed treatment.

Thank you.
Feb. 23, 2014, 5:35 pm

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