In 2012, model Lauren Wasser had her right leg amputated after suffering toxic shock syndrome caused by a tampon.
Now, she says it’s “inevitable” that her left leg will be amputated also, and she’s determined to warn young women about the dangers of using tampons.
“Every time I turn on the TV it infuriates me,” the 29-year-old model wrote in a first-person column for InStyle. “You’ll see an ad for Advil or Viagra and hear some monotonous voice warn you about even the smaller side effects like headaches or nausea. When you see a tampon commercial, it’s all happy teenage girls running along the beach in bikinis. The dangers are beyond minimised.”
According to the government website Health Direct, toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is caused by bacteria – the same bacteria responsible for staph infections.
The infection can arise after leaving a tampon in too long, or not your washing hands before inserting a tampon. The bacteria releases toxins into the bloodstream and sends the body into shock. Wasser said she began feeling unwell soon after inserting a tampon and, though she changed her tampon regularly the day she began to get sick, the damage was already done.
“The vagina is the most absorbent part of a woman’s body, and you place a tampon in that place that can bring with it chemicals, toxins,” she wrote.
LISTEN: The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss the best ‘period undies’ for any woman to buy. Post continues after.
Wasser was rushed to hospital after police barged into her apartment and found her non-responsive on the bathroom floor in 2012.
Speaking to The Sun earlier this week, she said it was lucky there was an infectious diseases expert at the hospital who knew to check her tampon for TSS.
“I had a 41 degree celsius fever, my kidneys were failing, I had a heart attack,” she said. “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.”