A Second Chance at Life

Guest blog by Senator Sandra Tiffany

A year ago, Nevada Senator Sandra Tiffany never would have thought she would be speaking out about a virtually unknown illness called sepsis. Today, she is taking it upon herself to increase awareness about sepsis and ensure that others receive the same quality of care that saved her life. Sepsis affects nearly three quarters of a million Americans each year. Despite these statistics, which equate to more lives touched than breast, colon/rectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer combined, sepsis is difficult for doctors to diagnose and few Americans know that sudden, severe, flu-like symptoms may be a warning of a life-threatening condition. 

While traveling in California, Sandra became nauseous and sought medical attention at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. A bacterial infection related to a blocked kidney stone was the source of her sudden change in health. Her condition continued to worsen and after she underwent surgery, she was rushed to the ICU and placed on life support. Finally, Sandra was diagnosed with septic shock and treated with a breakthrough therapy that likely, saved her life. This care approach allowed Sandra to make a full recovery and continue impacting lives. 

Sandra--or Sandee, as her friends call her--is fortunate to have received the kind of care she did. But more than that, Sandee's story can serve as a powerful example to women everywhere. From a professional perspective, Sandee is a strong female politician who is comfortable speaking out on behalf of constituents. Now from a personal perspective, she understands that she was one of the fortunate ones and must fight for others who may not receive the same quality of care she did. 

To ensure that others receive the treatment they need, Sandee continues to promote sepsis awareness. Because of her efforts, The Nevada State Department of Health agreed to collect, track and report sepsis data by regulation and Senator Tiffany proposed a resolution to document these agreements. Because too few Americans even know sepsis exists, patients and their families are prevented from being active participants in health care decision-making. Senator Tiffany's personal story of sepsis has led her to become a driving force in the battle against this silent killer.

Sandee's life-threatening experience made her want to encourage other women to take their health care and their lives into their own hands. She is active in Keep Our Doctors in Nevada (K.O.D.I.N.), an organization whose goal is to keep quality physicians in Nevada through reforming the state's tort laws. As a member of K.O.D.I.N., and an active legislator, Sandee was called upon to help the women of Henderson, Nevada. With less than three weeks notice, the only provider of obstetrics and gynecological services in the area was forced to shut down because the cost of its medical malpractice insurance became too high. Sandee fought tooth and nail to keep the clinic open, calling the state governor and the state department of insurance and persuading them to provide a quote for insurance to the clinic. Even after getting the new quote, the clinic choose to close its doors, but this only made Sandee more determined to reform Nevada medical malpractice and tort laws. She is on the forefront of trying to get these issues passed during this session of the Nevada Legislature.

Sandee is also working on several other women's issues during this legislative session. One issue she is closely involved in is the creation of a scholarship program for college-aged women that would allow them to attend the National Education for Leadership Women's (N.E.W.) Program. The N.E.W. Program is an intensive six-day program where various women leaders speak to college-aged women about the issues facing them, and the issues facing the next generation of women leaders. Sandee is working to get the program $75,000 in scholarships in June 2003 so that more college students can participate in the program. 

The N.E.W. Program is only one facet of the programs Sandee is actively involved in as an advisory member of the Women's Research Institute of Nevada. The Women's Research Institute oversees the N.E.W. Program as well as other programs that mentor college-aged women. As member of the Institute, Sandee talks to college-aged women about their individual goals and the role of women in society today. 

Sandee is a mother and a legislator who has been given a second chance at life. She is using this second chance to make a difference in individual women's lives-by instituting model legislation, reforming antiquated laws, and passing her knowledge onto the next generation of women leaders. She is a survivor who knows how lucky she is and says only this, "I've been given a new lease on life and it's made me realize what's truly valuable - living every moment, caring for those I love and doing what I passionately enjoy - making a difference as a legislator."