Rick Singh Flora was 41 when he died from sepsis in 2022, leaving behind his wife and two young children, as well as his parents and sister, Kamaldeep. Rick was Kamaldeep Sandhu’s only sibling, and they were extremely close.
Kamaldeep only wants justice for her brother and to ensure that what happened to her family does not happen to anyone else’s – which is why she is pursuing a complaint with the NHS Trust, and sharing her brother’s story as widely as she can, including with colleagues at Microsoft.
Read Rick’s sepsis story below…
Rick returned from a work trip feeling very unwell and laid down on the sofa in his parent’s house, where he lived with his family – as is typical in many Asian households. After becoming concerned, an ambulance was called, and he was taken to A&E.
The next evening Rick’s family were told he had gone into surgery to wash an infection out of his knee, and that he was now in intensive care. Kamaldeep said: “When we got there, they said that he had septic arthritis and they were treating him with a broad-spectrum antibiotic because they had sent for the cultures, and they had not come back yet. And then slowly, my brother started to deteriorate. The next day his kidneys started to fail. The word sepsis was not really used at all until three or four days later when they started saying, ‘There’s fluid in his lung, it could be septic wash.’ It was at that point that I thought, wow, he is really sick, this is serious.
Unfortunately, Rick subsequently had a cardiac arrest. Doctors managed to resuscitate him, but then 48 hours later he had another cardiac arrest and he passed away.
As a Sikh, Kamaldeep’s faith was instrumental in allowing her to process what happened to her brother. Chardi Kala is an important concept in Sikhism, where you remain positive and use that to enable you to be strong and do what you need to do to get by, but also enable everyone else around you. During the time Rick was critically ill, she turned to the Guru Granth Sahib, which is not just the holy scripture of Sikhism but is also considered as the living Guru. She asked to save her brother and the kind of messages she got back were ‘my perfect guru has bound me to him, and now, I am in absolute ecstasy’ and ‘contemplating my lord and master, my true guru, all my affairs have been resolved’. Kamaldeep said: “This is the single thing that that saved me mentally, that I have held onto since day one. My brother’s at peace. Because that is all you want for someone that goes, no matter how much you are suffering.”
Despite this consolation, it was not an easy ride for the family following Rick’s passing. There were complications due to sepsis which interfered with the typical Sikh burial customs. Due to the condition of Rick’s body, the family were not able to perform the ritualistic body wash. Instead, they had to trust the funeral directors to do it on their behalf. The funeral directors allowed Rick’s family to see his body five days prior to the service so they could process their shock, and the family were allowed to proceed with the open casket burial service – despite initial concerns that this would not be possible. Kamaldeep said: “All the funeral directors were just phenomenal in the way that they handled this whole situation.”
Kamaldeep was, however, able to access bereavement therapy through her work at Microsoft and she has since embarked on individual therapy. Describing her relationship with Rick, Kamaldeep said: “I cannot explain enough how close my brother and I were. He was my rock. We were close, a happy family, and we always have been, and I am incredibly grateful for that. But he was the perfect husband, perfect brother, dad, perfect son. It just could not have happened to a more pinnacle person. In the corporate world, they say you cannot have single points of failure. I feel like my brother was a single point of failure for our family.”
Laughing as she recalls the memory, Kamaldeep stresses the need to ensure more than one person knows the wi-fi password and can control any smart devices just in case the worst happens, as she remembers the technological chaos that ensured at home following her brother’s death.
It was not just technological issues that Kamaldeep was faced with, though; she found herself confronted by her own lack of agency because Rick had not left a Will. It meant she could not pursue a clinical negligence claim on Rick’s behalf, and she has had to settle for pursuing a complaint against the NHS Trust instead. Kamaldeep said: “I was not prepared for the lack of power I have as a sister, or my parents as parents. The emphasis around having a Will just could not be more amplified to me than it is now, because I have no legal rights to fight for him. I am not after the money. I am after the accountability. And that is why I am pursuing my complaint. But let us be honest, how heavy is a complaint compared to a lawsuit?
Rick’s spouse is currently too distraught over the loss of her husband to pursue a clinical negligence claim. But Kamaldeep or her parents can’t take up the mantle on Rick’s behalf. Kamaldeep added: “Because personal injury results in a claim financially, it automatically goes to the person’s estate. If you are not a beneficiary to that estate because there is no Will, then you cannot even have the conversation. I think the law doesn’t appreciate cultural dynamics in considering the immediate family beyond the spouse. Rick lived with his parents his entire life, this included him getting married and having their children being brought up in their home, but yet they had no legal right to talk to a lawyer about raising a negligence claim. It is very distressing.”
These feelings have lit a fire under Kamaldeep, galvanising her to pursue justice and raise awareness. What struck Kamaldeep in the months that followed Rick’s passing was how many people told her stories about sepsis and how they had also been affected – and yet Kamaldeep had known little about it before Rick’s death. That is when she approached us to ask how she could help. Kamaldeep said:
With a little help from The UK Sepsis Trust, Kamaldeep hosted a lunch-and-learn session at Microsoft at the end of last year, where Kamaldeep told Rick’s story to her co-workers to help raise awareness of sepsis. Unintentionally, this was around the time that Strep A and sepsis hit the news, so it had even more of an impact than either party could have imagined. Kamaldeep said: “We were not imagining that more than 30 people would attend this banquet. We had over 100 people who attended. And the response we were getting during the call, with other people saying that they had been affected, that they did not know this information, and how they wanted to contribute to The UK Sepsis Trust to try and help was just phenomenal. It was better than I could ever have imagined. It was so powerful.”
As well as getting The UK Sepsis Trust added as an option for payroll giving at work, Kamaldeep is also hoping to take advantage of Microsoft’s matched funding offer, by taking part in the national Sepsis Savvy Walk in March 2023. Kamaldeep said: “Hopefully whatever I raised will get doubled to support the charity!”