Professional tennis player, former Olympian dies of sepsis

Ken Flach, an Olympic gold medalist and professional tennis player, died of sepsis at the young age of 54. His widow filed a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible medical personnel and won a $3 million judgment.

What is sepsis?

Some people describe sepsis as a massive infection, but that’s not exactly accurate. It’s actually a massive system-wide inflammatory response to an infection. It’s such a dangerous medical condition that healthcare leaders created an international awareness program called the Surviving Sepsis Campaign.

The idea behind the sepsis campaign is that physicians, physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), and registered nurses (RNs) should be able to spot the signs and symptoms of infections and sepsis quickly and implement urgent medical intervention. Medical research shows that the faster sepsis is treated, the better the patient outcome.

According to Ken’s wife, this tragedy all started when her normally healthy husband had a bad cold for a few days. He tried to get an appointment with his doctor when his symptoms got worse. According to a transcript from his phone call to the doctor’s office, Ken explained, “It’s like fire, you know, burning in my chest.”

Even though severe pain is one of the general signs of sepsis, he couldn’t get an appointment with his doctor. Instead, he just had a phone consult. According to the lawsuit, the physician chose not to send Ken to the emergency room for care or order any prescriptions or tests.

By the next morning, Ken’s wife rushed him to the hospital, but he was already septic. He was too far gone for them to be able to reverse the effects of sepsis, which had already caused his vital organs to start shutting down.

Signs and symptoms of sepsis

Anyone can develop sepsis, but senior citizens, people with chronic medical conditions, and those with weakened immune systems have the highest risk.

Sepsis is the body’s uncontrolled oversized response to an infection. The common signs and symptoms of sepsis include:

• Temperature dysregulation. This could be shivering, feeling very cold, or having a fever. Some people have clammy or sweaty skin.

• Having a tough time breathing.

• Altered mental status. This means the person isn’t behaving consistent with his or her baseline. They may be confused or disoriented.

• Intense pain.

• Abnormal cardiac function. Some people have a high heart rate (tachycardia) or low blood pressure (hypotension).


In general, physicians describe sepsis in three stages: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. The treatment and outcome for sepsis depends on how quickly it’s diagnosed.

The standard treatment for sepsis includes starting intravenous (IV) antibiotics to address the underlying infection, IV fluids to increase volume, medications to raise and support blood pressure, corticosteroids to lower the systemwide inflammation that is characteristic of sepsis, insulin to help blood sugar levels, and medications for pain relief.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor treatment of infection and sepsis in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.