news

This model lost her leg to Toxic Shock Syndrome. Now she has a warning to all women.

She had suffered a massive heart attack, her internal organs were shutting down and she had gangrene – all because of a tampon.

Lauren Wasser was born into modelling, literally.

The daughter of two models, she featured in her first Vogue fashion shoot alongside her mother at only two months of age.

Lauren seemingly had it all at age 24. She was a popular fixture on LA’s social scene, stunning – tall, blonde, blue-eyed, prominent cheekbones – and was studying at university on a full basketball scholarship.

But, toxic shock syndrome (TSS) almost stole it all from her.

Image via Facebook.

After being struck down with the potentially fatal condition, she came within 10 minutes of death. She lost one leg, part of a foot and – temporarily – the will to live.

All because of a tampon.

Her nightmare began on October 3, 2012, when she went to bed wearing a tampon after feeling like she was coming down with the flu.

At some point — maybe the next day — she woke up and spoke to her concerned mother.

“I told her that I wanted to go to bed, and that I’d call her in the morning. And that was the last thing I remember happening,” Lauren told Vice.

The following day, a friend found her face down on her bedroom floor.

See the amazing photos of Lauren before and after her amputation (post continues after gallery):

Image via Instagram @theimpossiblemuse.

With a fever of 107 degrees, medical staff said she was ten minutes from death.

She had suffered a massive heart attack and her internal organs were shutting down.

It wasn’t until an infectious disease specialist asked whether Lauren had a tampon in that doctors discovered she had TSS, a bacterial infection that involves the naturally occurring staph bacteria. The synthetic ingredients in tampons – like rayon and plastic – and its absorbency allow the bacteria to flourish.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lauren was placed into a coma. Her mum was told to prepare her casket. Friends waited in a line that snaked outside the hospital and around the corner to pay their final respects.

But Lauren fought on.

Image via Instagram @fotofetish.

She told Vice that a relentless burning sensation in her hands and feet turned out to be gangrene. “It’s the most excruciating pain I’ve ever—I don’t know how to describe it to you,” she said.

She discovered her leg needed to be amputated below the knee after overhearing a woman on the phone.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s talking about me’,” Lauren said.

“I’m going to lose my leg.”

She agreed to the amputation of her right leg, but fought to save her damaged left leg. She ended up losing some toes on her left foot and still requires regular surgeries. She may need another amputation later in life.

Lauren told Vice she felt like she had lost her identity.

“I wanted to kill myself when I got home. I was this girl—and then all of a sudden I don’t have a leg, I’m in a wheelchair, I have half a foot, I can’t even walk to the bathroom. I’m in a bed, I can’t move, and I felt like those four walls were my prison. I would cry on a little stool in the shower, with my wheelchair outside waiting for me. It fucks with you. You live your whole life and think, ‘I’m an athlete,’ or, ‘I’m a pretty girl,’ but this was something physical that I had no control over. It took me a while to figure out if I was still worthy, if I was still pretty.”

Now she’s suing the manufacturer and distributer of Kotex Natural Balance tampons – the tampons she was using – as well as two stores that sell the product.

She hopes to send a message to the entire tampon industry about the danger of the synthetic materials used in their products, which are often advertised as ‘natural’.

Image via Instagram @fotofetish.

She says the warnings about TSS are insufficient and should be larger and clearer, like those on cigarette packets.

“You know cigarettes can kill you, so when you use them, it’s your choice,” she says.

“Had I known all the info about TSS, I would never have used tampons.”

A regret she is painfully reminded of every day.

For more, try these articles:

What if tampon ads were made by clueless men? Oh, wait.

VIDEO: What happens when a tampon gets ‘lost’ inside you.

We need to axe the “tampon tax” because a tampon is not a bloody luxury item.

Cate Blanchett: ‘Next, they’ll be asking us what brand of tampon we’re wearing.’

Are you concerned about TSS?