Model faces second leg amputation due to toxic shock syndrome

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Model Lauren Wasser wrote a very personal essay for InStyle Magazine to warn girls and women of the dangers of tampons.

Five years ago, when Wasser was 24, she said she started feeling sick after inserting a tampon. She figured she only had the flu, and went to a friend’s party, but was told she looked ill and should go home. On that day, Lauren says she replaced her tampon in the morning, afternoon, and again in the evening.

Police came to Wasser’s home twice after her mother called them to request a welfare check. On the second visit, they found her face down on the floor. “I was unresponsive, had a fever of 108, and was covered in my own feces and vomit,” Wasser wrote.

Wasser was rushed to the hospital where she had to be placed into a medically induced coma. “All of my organs were shutting down, my blood pressure was unstable, I suffered a heart attack, my fever was out of control, and I was on life support,” she said.

Wasser was still wearing a tampon when she arrived at the hospital. Her doctor sent it to the lab for testing and three days later, it came back with signs of toxic shock syndrome.

Wasser ended up spending four months in the hospital. During this time, gangrene developed in her right leg and started moving quickly. She eventually had part of her right leg amputated, and also lost toes on her left foot. She told the Washington Post she will likely lose both of her legs due to the pain she’s experiencing, and that she’s doing everything in her power to make sure this doesn’t happen to others.

“I think this is my purpose and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Wasser told the Post. “I’m an athlete — my legs were everything. I had no idea what my life would be like without them.”

Wasser says she’s working tirelessly to pass the Robin Danielson Act, which is named after a woman who lost her life to TSS in 1998.

The legislation would require the National Institute of Health to research the safety of feminine hygiene products, and companies to disclose what’s going into these products and what their long-term health effects are. Wasser says the bill has been rejected 10 times.

“When you see a tampon commercial, it’s all happy teenage girls running along the beach in bikinis. The dangers are beyond minimized.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare, life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections. Often toxic shock syndrome results from toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria, but the condition may also be caused by toxins produced by group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria.

Possible signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include:

  • A sudden high fever
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles
  • Confusion
  • Muscle aches
  • Redness of your eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

Toxic shock syndrome has been associated with:

  • Having cuts or burns on your skin
  • Having had recent surgery
  • Using contraceptive sponges, diaphragms or superabsorbent tampons
  • Having a viral infection, such as the flu or chickenpox

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