An inspirational Arthur Terry student who had to look after her mum when she caught a life-threatening condition took her campaign for improved support to the corridors of power, when she appeared before the biggest local authority in Europe to demand urgent action.
Year 9 student Sarah Gibson took the floor at a full meeting of Birmingham City Council on Tuesday, July 12 to ask a question about support for families who are affected by Sepsis, which struck down her mum Ali in 2019.
Sarah, who was just 11 years old at the time, cared for her mum as they were not aware of the support that was available to families in their situation.
Sepsis is the body’s over-reaction to an infection or injury, which causes the immune system to attack its own organs and tissues. It affects 245,000 people every year in the UK and is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide (11 million people).
Sarah asked a question of the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for Health and Social Care, Cllr Mariam Khan.
She told the council:
“I first came into contact with the serious effects of sepsis through my mum in 2019. This experience was very difficult and frightening for me as I did not know what Sepsis was. Even now, three years on, my mum is still struggling with the long-lasting effects that this condition has caused. Sepsis has led to anxiety for my mum’s wellbeing. This is all because she got no support.
“Nationally, 245,000 are directly affected yearly, not to mention the family of each person like me. My mum was offered no support. I had to care for her and myself when I was only 11. This is something no child should have to suddenly and irreversibly carry the responsibility for, but thousands have no choice but to. It is vital that patients are signposted towards UK Sepsis Trust services at the hospital. Awareness for sepsis is essential to save lives and lower the death rate of some 48,000 people every year.
“Will you commit to embedding signposting towards sepsis support systems like the Sepsis Trust at hospitals across Birmingham for patients and families?”
National charity the UK Sepsis Trust, which was founded in Birmingham by a doctor working at Good Hope Hospital, exists to support this hit by the condition and backed Sarah in her big moment at the council.
The Trust’s Fundraising Manager Brian Davies, who accompanied Sarah to the council meeting, said he had been ‘hugely impressed’ by the maturity and determination she had shown in demanding action.
He said: “Sarah showed great courage and determination to speak at the council and got across her point with real conviction.
“She and her family have experience of how Sepsis can impact on lives and have long-lasting effects. The UK Sepsis Trust is is proud to provide a free, confidential and compassionate helpline service, facilitated by our dedicated team of specialist sepsis nurses.
“However, effected families often don’t know about us, or aren’t pointed towards us when they need support the most.
“Sarah’s idea to embed signposting to help families affected by sepsis find us, and access our services and support, is a simple move that could improve the lives of so many people impacted by this terrible condition.”
Sarah found out about the trust during an ‘experience of the workplace’ careers event at the Arthur Terry School, which is part of the respected Arthur terry Learning Partnership (ATLP), where Brian was acting as a mentor.
Another mentor at the event, ATLP Trust member Councillor Alex Yip, arranged for Sarah to ask her question at Birmingham City Council’s full meeting, bringing the issue of sepsis to the attention of more than 100 elected councillors in the Second City.
Lauren Murphy, Sarah’s form tutor, said: “We are so proud of Sarah and the stand she has made about this issue, which has had such an impact on not only her own family but thousands of others. It was a privilege to see her speak to the council and we all hope the councillors will act on the suggestion she made.”