Parents determined to raise more awareness after their teenage son died from sepsis.

Thomas Snell, 13, was a fit and talented sporting all-rounder from Darwin.

He sadly died at Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital on July 22, almost three weeks after developing sepsis — organ failure caused by his body’s response to a joint attack of the flu and a bacterial infection.

One day, Thomas was texting his Mum asking for some cough lozenges and playing rugby for his under-14 side. By the next afternoon, doctors were connecting him to life support machines, urging his parents to tell their son they loved him.

Sepsis is a mystery killer, even to doctors. It remains unclear why some previously healthy children and adults develop sepsis from common infections, and others don’t.

The big hope is that through research, a blood test may be developed to pinpoint patients susceptible to sepsis so they can be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible and admitted to hospital.

About 500 children around Australia and New Zealand are treated in intensive care each year after developing sepsis. Between 5 per cent and 20 per cent of them die from the condition.

As Thomas’s parents and brother mourn his death, another sporty teenager, Mercedes King, lies heavily sedated in a critical condition in the Lady Cilento hospital’s intensive care unit with sepsis. Read her story here.

An 11-year-old girl died of sepsis in 2014 after rolling her ankle and being sent home from hospital with painkillers and antibiotics. Read more here.

Thomas’s family have vowed to promote awareness of sepsis, a medical condition they had never heard of before their son’s illness.

They’ve already raised $5000 for the “T for Thomas” campaign which they plan to donate to sepsis research, hoping fewer families face a similar tragedy.

t for thomas

Wednesday is World Sepsis Day.

Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis

Common symptoms of sepsis are fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion and disorientation.

However many of these symptoms, such as fever and difficulty breathing, mimic other conditions, making sepsis hard to diagnose in its early stages.

If you are worried please question your doctor for further testing!

Read more:

Share your comments below

  • It’s so scary to think one day you can have a cold, then the next you have a series lifethreatening illness.


  • How can you know the symptoms of this deadly disease – it seems to have crept up and caught everyone by surprise. My thoughts are with this young man’s parents.


  • I never realised you could get sepsis this way. Such a tragic waste of life. RIP Thomas.


  • This is so scary. There have been quite a few cases recently. RIP to the young man and condolences to the family.


  • Oh my gosh this is just awful. RIP Thomas and my thoughts and prayers for the family.


  • so sad to hear this. i didn’t know that this was the out come as i’d heard about the hospitalisation. his poor family!.


  • My thoughts are with the family at this time,R.I.P Thomas.


  • So tragic and sad – every sympathy to the family.


  • Thanks for posting this story – as sad as it is. I was not aware that sepsis could manifest in this way. I feel so very sorry for the families, it would be heartbreaking. The list of symptoms is similar to a few illnesses so no wonder it is difficult to diagnose.


  • 500 kids per year !! Hope that through research, this blood test may be developed indeed to pinpoint patients susceptible to sepsis so they can be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible and admitted to hospital !


  • I thought sepsis was most likely to occur after an operation. I’m shocked that it is affecting so many young people. My condolences to Thomas’ family.


  • How heartbreaking for the family. I didn’t know much about sepsis and thought it was a blood infection and difficult to catch! Good to know these things but sad it takes such a tragedy to bring it to light.


  • Thinking of you with love Thomas RIP.
    Thoughts and prayers to the family.


  • This is such a tragedy and better explains to me what sepsis is. I must admit, I thought it was a blood infection and hard to get. True, the symptoms are so similar to many other ailments that it’s hard to know what to do. Stories like this remind us to always be mindful of different ailments, to push back on the medical system if we’re not happy with a diagnosis, and to trust our gut when it comes to our kids being sick. Such a sad situation, and the numbers of people contracting sepsis is frightening and more than I had ever imagined.


  • My husband developed septicaemia – and when I called n ambulance, they said he was “just dehydrated”. I had to fight for them to take him to hospital.


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