Monday 20 January 2020

Family of sepsis victim 'Lil Red' asked by HSE to help new awareness campaign

Sean ‘Lil Red’ Hughes died of sepsis aged just 15 in January 2018
Sean ‘Lil Red’ Hughes died of sepsis aged just 15 in January 2018

The family of a Dublin teenager who died from sepsis will be central to a new HSE campaign to raise awareness of the killer illness.

Sean Hughes, known as 'Lil Red', was only 15 and appeared to be getting over a flu-like chest infection, when he suddenly lost consciousness while watching television with his mother in January last year.

Despite the desperate efforts of his father and a team of ambulance paramedics to resuscitate him, he died in Temple Street Children's Hospital.

Since that day Sean's family has been engaged in a quest to raise awareness of sepsis at their own expense.


They've had flyers, fridge magnets, bracelets and messages printed and manufactured with their own money as they pleaded with the HSE, and the Department of Health, to get engaged with a wider public awareness campaign.

Around 3,000 people a year die from sepsis in Ireland. It claims more lives than heart attacks, breast cancer or lung cancer, and can kill a healthy person within 12 hours.

Sean's dad, Joe, and mother, Karen, looked for information from the UK and the USA, because they felt there was little information here, and then they made a YouTube video to explain their story, the symptoms of sepsis, and to urge people and medical professionals to be more aware of it.

After seeing the video, the National Sepsis Programme contacted Sean's family.

"We had to educate ourselves about sepsis after Sean died," said Joe.

"There was little awareness out there, and after a long campaign, the new National Sepsis Programme manager contacted us and asked us into the College of Surgeons.

"They said they agreed with everything that was in our video, and they wanted us to be on board with a national campaign. It was a big breakthrough for us.

"Now there will be a poster and leaflet campaign, and social media, and we will be pushing for radio and television campaigns too.

"It's a definite positive, and while the campaign won't mention Sean by name, there will be a little character drawn in his likeness. We are over the moon."

Sean had been sick before his collapse at home in Finglas in January last year.

"He hadn't been well but he'd had colds and chest infections before and always shook them off," said his mother Karen.

"On the Wednesday I took him to the doctor and he was prescribed antibiotics.

"Then on the Thursday, he was lying on the couch.

"Sean had a rattle in his chest and he said, 'This is doing my head in', and I thought to myself that I'd take him back to the doctor the next day.

"Then he stopped talking. He just stopped. I couldn't believe it. I tried to wake him. I called Joe and he tried to do CPR while we waited for the ambulance.


"It just didn't seem real. I had been talking to him, wondering what to watch on the TV, and half an hour later we were in intensive care in Temple Street."

Sean was known as Lil Red, because of his love of rapping.

His raps were played at his funeral in St Canice's Church, Finglas, where all his school pals from Colaiste Eoin paid an emotional tribute to him.

He had such a big personality that Sean was chosen by his school to show President Michael D Higgins around during its 50th anniversary celebrations when Sean was only in first year.

Sean obviously made a great impression on the President, because after his sudden death the Hughes family received a letter from Aras an Uachtarain in which Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina sent their condolences.

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