She was eventually rushed to the hospital. “I had a 107-degree fever, my kidneys were failing, I had a heart attack,” she said. “Thank God there was an infectious disease doctor there [at the hospital] because as soon as they found me, I was plummeting so bad they couldn’t understand why a healthy, young 24-year-old like me was dying.” After the doctors found and removed her tampon, she started responding better to treatment, but she was put into a medically-induced coma and given antibiotics to try to get rid of the bacteria. Part of her right leg and the toes in her left leg were removed to try to save her life.
She says she saw doctors write “yes” on one leg before her surgery and “no” on the other. “Like ‘yes,’ this is the one that’s going and ‘no,’ this is the one that we’re keeping,” she said. “And to see that visually on your leg, and then my mom kissing my leg and knowing that’s the last time, it was crazy.”
TSS is caused by exposure to the staphylococcus bacteria, which releases toxins into the blood stream. Those toxins can then spread throughout a person’s body and organs, causing damage. While it’s possible to get TSS from other causes like cuts and having had surgery recently, 74 percent of the TSS cases in the U.S. between 1979 and 1996 were linked to tampon use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, TSS overall is rare.
Lauren has documented her journey on Instagram, hoping to raise awareness about TSS:
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Lauren tells The Washington Post that she’s still in “excruciating pain” every day and she thinks she’s “inevitably” going to have to have her left leg amputated as well. But, she says, “it is what it is.”
TSS is an “extremely rare” complication, but it does happen, says Sherry Ross, M.D., an ob-gyn and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. Not all TSS cases will end up in an amputation but again, it can happen. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, complications from TSS can cause the amputation of a person’s fingers, toes, or limbs.
What you should—and shouldn’t—be doing to keep your lady parts in good shape:
While you shouldn’t panic about TSS, it’s important to be aware that there is a small risk with tampon use, Ross says. To protect yourself, she recommends changing your tampons regularly (i.e. every four to eight hours) regardless of how heavy or light your flow is, and using the lowest absorbency tampon. You might even want to consider alternating between tampons and pads when your flow is light to drop your risk even further, she says.
Now, Lauren is pushing for women to be better educated about TSS and tells The Post that she hopes other women will “be more aware of what they’re putting inside their bodies.”