Monday 27 January 2020

'It's his legacy' - family joy as 'Lil Red' sepsis campaign gets backing

Sean Hughes, known as Lil Red, had a flu-like infection
Sean Hughes, known as Lil Red, had a flu-like infection

The family of a Dublin teenager who died from sepsis has met Health Minister Simon Harris to discuss a national awareness campaign for the illness that kills 3,000 people a year in Ireland.

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 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 as they pleaded with the HSE and the Department of Health to get engaged with a wider public awareness campaign.

Mr Harris has now met Sean's parents, Joe and Karen, and pledged to back their campaign by having information leaflets and posters placed in surgeries and clinics, and on the side of ambulances.

"We've been campaigning ever since Sean died from a killer illness we had never heard of before. We were determined that everybody became sepsis aware so that this would be less likely to happen again," Joe told the Herald.

"We've been a long time waiting to meet Mr Harris. There was a plan to meet before now but his wife went into labour so obviously that meeting had to be changed, but we met him last week and we're delighted he's on board with us. The information in the campaign will be done in the likeness of Sean. This is his legacy and we will never give up spreading the message about sepsis."

Following the meeting Mr Harris sent a message on social media pledging his support to the Lil Red Legacy campaign.

"Honoured to meet Joe and Karen, the parents of Sean @lilredlegacy who are doing superb campaigning work in raising awareness of Sepsis in Sean's memory. Looking forward to working with them to support this life saving work," he wrote.

Following Sean's death, Joe and Karen had been frustrated that there was so little known in Ireland about such a major killer.

"You see information on strokes and meningitis, and there are campaigns for those, but there was nothing for sepsis. We had never heard of it," said Joe.


Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body's response to an infection.

The body normally releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight an infection; sepsis occurs when the body's response to these chemicals is out of balance, triggering changes that can damage multiple organ systems and cause death.

It claims more lives than heart attacks, breast cancer or lung cancer, and can kill a healthy person within 12 hours.

Joe and Karen intend to push for a TV and radio campaign to get the message on sepsis to a wider number of people, in the same manner that a campaign on strokes spread awareness on that particular subject.

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