By Bill Parry
Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst became the first school in the country to pilot a new science education module designed to teach middle and high school students about infectious diseases with a special focus on sepsis.
Members of the student body traveled to Washington, D.C. last week where the module was announced at the Rory Staunton Foundation’s National Forum on Sepsis.
Rory Staunton of Sunnyside, was 12 years old when he died of sepsis after scraping his arm playing basketball at school in 2012. The wound became infected and caused his death from sepsis after doctors failed to diagnose it in time,
A number of the McClancy students knew Rory through local basketball competitions and growing up together in the neighborhood. Rory’s parents, Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, established the Rory Staunton Foundation in his honor to make people aware of sepsis and improve hospital protocols around the condition.
“Before Rory died I had never heard of sepsis,” Ciaran Staunton said. “We are raising awareness of sepsis at the Rory Staunton Foundation.” According to the Mayo Clinic, sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection that occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body.
The inflammation can set off a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail.
Ann Smith, a biology and environmental science teacher at McClancy, began developing the module after attending Rory’s funeral mass along with many of her own students.
“After hearing Rory’s story, I realized students in my classes were emotionally impacted by his death,” she said. “I wanted them to understand what happened to Rory. She found that the school science criteria did not include sepsis, even though it is both common and deadly, killing over 250,000 Americans each year.
“We learn all about obesity, AIDS, even the dangers of salt but nothing about sepsis,” Staunton said. “It’s wonderful that this module will educate the student. The children at the school are tomorrow’s parents, teachers and doctors.”
He hopes the Archdiocese will look at the module being introduced at their high school and use it more broadly in all of its schools eventually. Staunton is encouraging public school teachers to also look at the module and pitch it to their principals.
“Our goal is to implement the new education module in school districts across the country to educate a new generation to understand sepsis, its symptoms, and treatment so that young people no longer die through the lack of awareness of the condition,” Orlaith Staunton.
The Stauntons are so committed to spreading the message about sepsis in honor of their son that they are in the process of selling their popular Sunnyside gastropub Molly Blooms. The Stauntons opened the restaurant at 43-13 Queens Blvd. in 2011.
“We have to take a step back, as far as running the restaurant, we just can’t do it anymore,” Ciaran Staunton said. “We pour a lot of effort and resources into the f oundation. In fact, the Staunton family has spent more money on sepsis awareness than the Centers for Disease Control in recent years. We just have to move on with our mission.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr