Since she lost her right leg from a near fatal experience with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) in 2012, Lauren Wasser has strongly campaigned for better awareness about the incredibly rare, life threatening bacterial infection.
It began after changing her tampon – the then 24-year-old model began feeling flu-like symptoms including nausea and a pounding head. After leaving a friend’s party early to rest she was woken by police pounding on her door.
“I was so confused and thinking ‘why are the police here’,” she recalled in a interview with StyleLikeU.
“The police officer came in and he told me I really needed to call my mum because she is really worried about me.”
“My mum never heard from me, she called for another while to check, called all my girlfriends to go to my apartment and was on her way,” Lauren said.
“She called the police and they came round, it took them 30 minutes to get through my front door and then found me on my bedroom floor face down. I had a 107F fever, my kidneys were failing, I had a heart attack.”
Paramedics later told her she was 10 minutes from death when they arrived.
Lauren was rushed to hospital were a specialist checked if she had a tampon in.
“As soon as they located it it got sent to the lab and it came back as TSS and as soon as they removed it I started being more receptive to treatment.”
“They were telling my mum and my godfather to start preparing my funeral because there was no way I was walking out of there – it would have been a miracle.”
Lauren was placed into a medically induced coma while she underwent multiple blood transfusions and pumped with fluids to flush out the toxins. The infection turned to gangrene and she learned that her leg needed to amputated when she overheard a nurse on the phone.
“I remember her speaking to someone saying ‘I have a 24-year-old girl here who is going to need a right leg below the knee amputation. I knew my legs were not good but I just couldn’t…hearing those words come out of her mouth and being by myself, it was so surreal.”
“It was f*cking hell. I was miserable. I hated everyone, I hated everything, I hated myself… I just did not want to live.”
TSS is a rare complication of a bacterial infection, often caused by the staphylococcus (staph) bacteria. Menstruating women are most at risk of getting TSS as it is thought to be linked with tampon use. It is believed the staph bacteria can over-grow in the presence of a blood-soaked tampon, which is why it is recommended to change your tampon every three to four hours.
The road to recovery has been a long and painful one, requiring frequent maintenance surgeries and the possibility that she will need another amputation, but Lauren says she has learnt a lot from horrific experience and wouldn’t trade it in.
“My heart wouldn’t be full. I wouldn’t feel like I’m doing good. I wouldn’t feel like I’m making an impact in a positive way. I wouldn’t have known what that felt like, because I didn’t do that before.”
Not only is Lauren continuing her successful career as a model, she’s become an avid campaigner for more research on the long term effects of tampon use and the potential dangers they pose for women.
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