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Man's Paper Cut Turns Into Life-Threatening Medical Emergency

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Kennedy Health in South Jersey has been honored nationally for its program to combat sepsis infections which  kill more people than heart attacks.

The CDC has declared sepsis a medical emergency that kills 258,000 people a year nationally.

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It's tricky to diagnose, but Kennedy Health has instituted a program in its three hospitals that's dramatically reduced its sepsis death rate.

Michael Bergers say his life was saved at Kennedy Hospital in Cherry Hill.

"It started from a paper cut", explains Michael. He had a little cut on his finger that turned into sepsis and a three week medically induced coma.

"It scared the hell out of me, can't believe that was actually me," says Michael, who never knew much about sepsis.

It's often triggered by a flesh eating bacteria that can cause organ failure.

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Michael describes the shock, "They said I was circling the drain, I had a 50/50 shot from what they told me, I had a 50/50 shot of living."

Fortunately, Michael was treated quickly at Kennedy which has a special program that's reduced deaths from sepsis.  It's often missed because there's no specific test for sepsis and symptoms can vary.

Marianne Kraemer, the administrative director for infection control at Kennedy Health says, "The ultimate goal is to recognize it, treat it and minimize any side effects a patient may have of sepsis so it doesn't progress to severe sepsis or septic shock."

A clock in the emergency department times a quick response.

Kraemer says, "Everybody sees that and recognizes that somewhere in the E.R. there is someone who is septic and all attention goes to that patient."

And there's a bundle of interventions that include IV  fluids, blood cultures, antibiotics and watching for a change in vital signs.

Michael, who's grateful says, "I had the exact people I should've had to save my life."

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Kennedy Health's sepsis program has received national attention from the Sepsis Alliance and was just recognized with the Sepsis Hero Award.

Kraemer said about the award, "I was really overwhelmed with the award. It was a lot of work that went into that and a lot of people behind the scenes to really earn that award."

Michael says he's completely recovered now and doesn't know where he picked up the sepsis. While commonly linked to hospital infections, the CDC says 80 percent of sepsis cases happen outside hospital settings.

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