Joshua Bassett Revealed That He Had Septic Shock and Heart Failure—Here's What You Need to Know

At the hospital, doctors told him he had a 30% chance of survival.

Actor Joshua Bassett has revealed that he was hospitalized with septic shock and heart failure earlier this year. The 20-year-old star of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series says that in early January, he "started getting very ill, and it kept getting worse."

At first he thought it was food poisoning, but "it got worse, it got worse, it got worse, it got worse," Bassett told GQ in a recent interview. Then on January 14, he was hospitalized with "unimaginable pain."

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Turns out that Bassett was in septic shock and heart failure. "[The doctors] told me that I had a 30% chance of survival. They told me that if I had not checked into the hospital within 12 hours, I would have been found [dead] in my apartment," he told GQ. At the time, he says he "didn't have any energy to be able to focus on anything but staying alive."

Back when this was all happening, Bassett posted an Instagram video of himself in the hospital. In his caption, he wrote "after an unknown, uncomfortable feeling turned into, times 10, the worst pain of my life, i figured i'd just try to sleep. after multiple, very very ugly days and nights, i had no choice today but be taken to the hospital."

Alluding to just how serious his illness was, Bassett also wrote that "according to the doc, i now have the medal for 'the sickest patient in the hospital.' how cool!!!"

While he didn't say what the exact cause of each diagnosis was, he's "sure stress had a part in it." In fact, two days before he started feeling ill, Olivia Rodrigo released her hit song "Drivers License," which had social media buzzing with rumors that the song was about Bassett. The day he was hospitalized, his own song, "Lie Lie Lie," was released.

Not all of the details about what happened to Bassett are entirely clear, but here's what you should know about septic shock and heart failure.

What is septic shock?

Septic shock is a severe form of sepsis, a life-threatening medical emergency that is the body's extreme response to an infection. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have, like the flu, triggers a chain reaction through your body. If it's not treated in time, it can quickly cause tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.

"People with sepsis can slip from what seems like routine infection into a systemic situation very quickly," Anthony Fiore, MD, chief of epidemiologic research and innovations in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), previously told Health.

When someone has septic shock, "their blood pressure is inadequate to support life," infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, previously told Health. It's "possible" to recover from septic shock, but it's "very severe," Dr. Adalja says.

What causes septic shock?

"Almost any type of infection can lead to sepsis," according to the CDC. "Infections that lead to sepsis most often start in the lung, urinary tract, skin, or gastrointestinal tract. When germs get into a person's body, they can cause an infection. If you don't stop that infection, it can cause sepsis."

Some people are more at risk for developing septic shock than others, including those who are very old or very young, as well as individuals with weakened immune systems, according to Medline Plus.

Risk factors for septic shock include:

  • Diabetes
  • Leukemia
  • Long-term use of antibiotics
  • Lymphoma
  • Recent infection
  • Recent surgery or medical procedure
  • Recent or current use of steroid medicines

Again, Bassett did not disclose what caused his septic shock or heart failure. However, he did mention stress as a potential factor.

What are the symptoms of septic shock?

Septic shock can affect any part of the body, including the heart, brain, kidneys, liver, and intestines. Per Medline Plus, symptoms may include:

  • Cool, pale arms and legs
  • A high or very low temperature and chills
  • Lightheadedness
  • Little or no urine
  • Low blood pressure, especially when standing
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Restlessness, agitation, lethargy, or confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rash or discoloration
  • Decreased mental status

Life-threatening complications that septic shock can lead to include respiratory failure, cardiac failure, or organ failure, according to Medline Plus. While Bassett said that he had both septic shock and heart failure, it is unclear if or how they were related.

What to know about heart failure

Heart failure can be ongoing (chronic) or come on suddenly (acute), the Mayo Clinic reports. "Most often, heart failure is caused by another medical condition that damages your heart," according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This can include coronary heart disease, heart inflammation, high blood pressure, or an irregular heartbeat. But as mentioned above, and as research suggests, sepsis can also increase the risk of heart failure.

Per the CDC, someone who has heart failure might have:

  • Shortness of breath during daily activities
  • Trouble breathing when lying down
  • Weight gain with swelling in the feet, legs, ankles, or stomach
  • A general feeling tiredness or weakness

While younger people can certainly develop heart failure, it is more common in older adults. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it's the leading cause of hospitalization for people over age 65.

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