12 September 2019
A community initiative aimed at helping to spot the signs of infection and sepsis in people with a learning disability is looking to go worldwide, thanks to a West Nottinghamshire College staff member’s idea.
Employability and work placement co-ordinator for creative industries, Julie Hough, together with nurses from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, were involved in a video campaign back in May, which has since been shortlisted for an award.
The nurses Ruth Harrison and Paula Evans called upon the services of the college’s media students to help create an education video which would help show some of the softer signs of deterioration through sepsis that a person with a learning disability may show. Sepsis is a condition where the body’s response to an infection causes damage to the tissues and organs.
Since the production and successful release of the video, Julie began to think of new ways that the awareness of sepsis could be spread even further. And so the sepsis aware bears were born – cuddly teddy bears with the symptoms tied around their neck, designed to be passed from person to person.
Julie said: “It was literally a brainwave that came to me one evening at home. Sepsis awareness means a lot to me as friends of mine lost their son Lewis six years ago through sepsis complications, so I’m very passionate about spreading the word. In a previous job as a nursery manager I remembered how we would let the children take home a teddy bear and care for it for a while and then return this and pass to another child; this was a huge success.
“I realised it would be the perfect way to pass on the message about sepsis, with a fact sheet attached to each bear and, together with the help of social media and our hashtag #SepsisAwareBear, our message has the potential to go far and wide when people check their bears in, read about the symptoms and pass their bears on.”
Ruth, who is now national head of learning disabilities and autism for Bespoke Health and Social Care and Paula worked tirelessly with Julie to launch the initiative. Together they purchased small bears, costing just £1 from Ikea and produced the symptoms on laminated paper, to be tied to their necks. The symptoms have also been translated into Makaton for those with wider learning disabilities.
So far, sixteen bears have been circulated with one even reaching Australia and another has travelled to Vancouver, Canada. The #SepsisAwareBear hashtag is designed to be used by everyone who receives a bear to ‘check-in’ where they are and uploaded to either Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.
Ruth said: “So many people just aren’t aware of the signs of sepsis, so using these teddy bears to share the knowledge is really helping people young and old to understand. My five-year-old daughter Deanna took a bear on holiday to Cornwall and together we chatted to other holidaymakers about the bears and sepsis. She’s been telling her school friends and teachers all about them too.
“Deanna’s bear was called Discoloured Dave, and we’ve named them all after the type of symptoms to look out for. There’s Breathless Brian, Blocked-up Bob, Ryan Rigor, and even a Fainting Freda.”
There is one special large mascot bear, called Lewis, after the son of Julie’s friends who sadly passed away through sepsis. Lewis attended the London awards with Julie and Ruth on Wednesday when they delivered the presentation about the teddy bear initiative.
Julie added: “On our Facebook page so far, we’ve reached over 4,500 people with the message and just sixteen bears have been distributed. Our aim now is to continue sending the bears on their travels and reach more and more people with the vital message.
“In the coming weeks I’m going to be handing over Lewis the mascot bear to my dear friends, Lewis’s mum and dad as a memorial to their beloved son.”
To follow the bears on Facebook visit https://www.facebook.com/Sepsis-Aware-Bears-104464310906463/
For Twitter visit https://twitter.com/SepsisAwareBear and on Instagram they can be found at https://www.instagram.com/sepsis_aware_bears_/
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