Homerton Hospital’s ‘SepsisMaggie’ on fighting the notoriously hard-to-diagnose illness

Margarida Pacheco, who is also known as "Sepsis Maggie". Picture: John Goodman

Margarida Pacheco, who is also known as "Sepsis Maggie". Picture: John Goodman - Credit: John Goodman

‘Sepsis Maggie’ tells Emma Bartholomew why has dedicated her career to fighting the disease, and how she has shaken things up at the Homerton since she started working there in October

When Margarida Pacheco saw the job to be sepsis nurse specialist at the Homerton Hospital, she knew it was perfect for her.

Going by the name SepsisMaggie on Twitter, she has been passionate about ensuring prompt diagnosis of the illness since she saw someone die of it at another London hospital.

Maggie has been shaking things up at Homerton since her post was created to promote patient safety.

Wednesday will see the publication of a pocket guide she has put together to educate staff about the illness which often mimics flu-like symptoms, and is notoriously difficult to diagnose.

“It’s such an ambiguous syndrome,” said Maggie. “

“There’s nothing like the clinician’s intuition when it comes to sepsis, as well as listening to how the patient is feeling - in most cases they will feel as though they are going to die.”

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The potentially life-threatening condition is sparked when the immune system goes into overdrive, and the body becomes overwhelmed as a response to an infection. Making sure sepsis is treated within the hour with antibiotics is paramount, because it can otherwise lead to multi-organ failure and death.

While elderly patients might come down with sepsis following a chest or urinary infection, it can also be caused by a simple cut – like the case of the character Nic Grundy on BBC radio show The Archers.

Maggie, 31, grew up in Portugal and always wanted to be a nurse because of its “caring” side. She always had the idea in mind to move to England because “there are no jobs back home” and “the language seemed quite easy”. She emigrated six years ago, and worked in A&E at east London hospitals, before coming to the Homerton. Here she is auditing sepsis figures and educating staff to improve early diagnosis and effective treatment. In June she is organising a conference where speakers include victims and relatives of those affected.

“We need to show people the stories behind it,” said Maggie. “That’s what pushed me to want to do this job. For years we just called sepsis a bad pneumonia or a bad urinary infection, and people were a bit scared of the word, just like TB back in the day. The more we talk about and understand sepsis the better, and the better we will be able to fight it.

“I am grateful to work in a hospital that embraces change and innovation.”