We’re honored to share these moving words by Allison Harrold, whose beautiful daughter, Clover, was snatched from her too soon. Please read about her sepsis tragedy and her initiative to raise awareness of sepsis and honor her child through the Clover Award, awarded to hospital staff who display excellence in sepsis care.
I am writing this as a mother to a child lost to sepsis. A grieving mother, always desperately searching for ways to parent her daughter who is no longer physically present. After I lost my precious Clover, I didn’t think I would survive in the world again, but without any other choice, I did. I survived by finding fellow parents that understood the hell I was going through. With the help of my sister’s expert Googling, I immediately discovered Rory’s parents and their wonderful foundation. The Rory Staunton Foundation was the lifeline that I needed to know that I could survive Clover’s loss and perhaps help others. I soon discovered doing anything I can to help prevent another child lost to sepsis was a way I could parent Clover and honor her memory.
To look at Clover was to see her dad’s reflection. My firstborn looked just like her Daddy (cute, of course!). We were speeding through the days as she was becoming an active toddler, into EVERYTHING. There was not much time to think about the day-to-day things that could potentially be fatal. When she spiked a fever one night, it seemed like it was like every other fever and we would wait it out. We became progressively worried when her fever would not break despite medication and she became increasingly grumpy. A visit that day to the pediatrician resulted in being told it was likely a virus, that there was one “going around”. The next day Clover’s fever persisted, she was very clingy, refused to eat or drink anything and she became increasingly lethargic . We took Clover to the ER where we were told she was dehydrated, and despite her still having a fever and an elevated heart rate, we were discharged. After coming home from the ER that night Clover got worse. We returned to the ER, again. The gist of the visit is that she was misdiagnosed. It was assumed the symptoms were related to some oncological issue. By the time it was discovered that she was septic, she had already progressed to septic shock and died a very short time later. There are too many details upon which to elaborate, many of which we now believe, contributed to her untimely death. After losing her blood pressure, the events spiraled downward very quickly leading to cardiac arrest. Despite being able to resuscitate her, the lack of oxygen adversely affected her brain. We decided to end life support and hold our daughter in our arms while her heart stopped beating. Clover was just shy of 10 months old when sepsis took her life.
I admire the Stauntons so much for their bravery in being able to fight everyday to help other children. After Clover died, I would learn that there would be so many days, when simply surviving was all I could do. I would learn that it was much harder to share my daughter with other people, more so than I ever thought. I still deeply felt that I needed to try and help others as a way to be the best parent I could be for Clover. We decided to share Clover’s story with the hospital where my husband and I both worked. We managed to share our experience with the hospital where she died. We spoke with a local newspaper. Sharing her story with Roper St. Francis (where my husband and I worked) would lead to the development of a Four-Leaf Clover Pin which is awarded to healthcare staff that display excellence in sepsis care. We believe that connecting staff back to a personal story, a reason for what we do, will help people continue to provide excellent sepsis care and improve sepsis outcomes.
As Thanksgiving season is approaching, I find myself thinking about its meaning. I know it is not about the “homey” smells of turkey and pumpkin pie and laying on the living room floor watching the Thanksgiving Day parade with my sibs. Its origin is rooted in survival after loss. It’s giving thanks for what allowed for that survival. When it comes to being a loss parent, it’s hard for me to be thankful at all. But I am thankful to be Clover’s mom. And I am thankful for organizations and people that are out there fighting for our babies, whether we can see the danger looming or not. We would like to continue to contribute to this fight when it comes to sepsis. My husband and I would like to see other hospitals use the Clover Pin for recognition of excellent sepsis care. Our hope is it will provide incentive and extra armor in the fight. We hope that one day a Four-Leaf Clover Pin in healthcare will automatically make people think of sepsis and always be a reminder of why it is so important for healthcare providers to identify and treat sepsis early. We also believe the Clover pin symbolizes hope, unity, and love. It is our hope that we will do better at identifying sepsis early, unifying around the common cause of providing excellent sepsis care to prevent what happened to Clover and many other children, and the love that we all have that connects us and makes us strive to be the best we can be.
If your hospital or healthcare organization is interested in implementing the Clover Award, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Clover’s Mom, Allison