Playing 18 to battle sepsis


Sean Hatzfeld, 8, a spirited third-grader at Oceanside School #5, was honored at the district’s Oct. 15 Board of Education meeting for his work in raising awareness about sepsis, a severe bacterial blood infection, which he suffered from only eight months ago.

After a six-week recovery from his illness at Winthrop-University Hospital, Sean — who contracted a rare case of sepsis from a sinus infection — mustered up his strength to play golf against the doctors who treated him at the first annual Tee Up to Drive Out Sepsis outing at Glen Cove Golf Club on Sept. 30, which raised $25,000 for the hospital to help educate patients about early warning signs of the disease.

“I equate the whole experience that we had with him in the hospital as surreal, and I ask myself if it even happened,” said Sean’s mother, Patricia Hatzfeld. “At that outing, he made two great shots and I was so proud of him. I felt fulfilled that our mission was accomplished.”

Sean started feeling ill one night last February, according to his mother, with congestion and a dangerously high 104-degree fever, while he was recovering from a case of strep throat a few weeks earlier. Though his pediatrician prescribed fluids and Motrin for five days to treat the symptoms, Sean’s mother said that his fever quickly rose again, and he started vomiting frequently and developed a small rash above his left eyebrow.

“I was in his room all night with very dim lights but he couldn’t sleep; he was very hot,” Patricia recounted. “I remember him wanting my hand on him all the time; it must have been cooling him down. I do remember his pulse was pumping out of his neck. It blew up so badly, it was about 5 a.m., and I said to myself, Should I go to the hospital now?”

When his rash became more inflamed and moved toward the other side of his forehead, Patricia drove him to South Nassau Communities Hospital, where he was diagnosed with orbital cellulitis, an infection that spreads from the sinuses to the eye socket, and treated him with antibiotics. Sean was later sent to Winthrop to be treated by a pediatric ophthalmologist, and there he started throwing up blood as his blood pressure dropped precipitously, he grew delirious and the rash spread and became inflamed.

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