Health News

Model Lost Her Leg To Toxic Shock Syndrome

Lauren Wasser, a 28-year-old model, recounts her close brush with death in 2012, after contracting toxic shock syndrome from using a tampon.

Wasser, then 24, said that her day started out normally. She had run out of tampons, so she went to the store to buy some and used one, Yahoo News reports. She spent the day doing normal things like texting or lounging in bed, but then started feeling ill.

She said, “I was deciding if I was even going to make it [to the party] because I was feeling worse and worse as the day went on.” Wasser said she had flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, headache and fever, and despite it all, made it to the party. Once she got there, her friends sent her home as she looked sick.

She went home, thinking she just needed to rest. She awoke to her dog barking and the police banging on her door. Her worried mother had been trying to call her and she wasn’t picking up. Wasser reassured the police, but they returned hours later to find her collapsed on the floor.

Wasser described,

I had a 107°F fever; my kidneys were failing; I had a heart attack. 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.

The doctors found and removed the tampon, and Wasser began responding to treatment. She was put into a medically-induced coma, given antibiotics and fluids to flush the bacteria out of her system.

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare complication that happens when a person is exposed to staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria. Cases like Wasser’s are very rare – the National Organization for Rare Diseases says that three out of 100,000 women are affected yearly. The reduction has been credited to stricter standards issued by the Food and Drug Administration regarding feminine hygiene products.

Wasser’s infection caused her right leg to become gangrenous, and she had to have it amputated below the knee. The doctors originally wanted both legs removed, but Wasser refused. “I saw it as a 50-50 chance,” she said. “We did two baby foreskin grafts, which — miraculously, thank God — were the only thing that saved my foot. Today, my toes are gone. My heel finally closed up, but it’s super sensitive, and I have no fat pad there.”

Wasser needs frequent maintenance surgeries on her leg, and she may need another amputation later. Her mother and godfather started a lawsuit against the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which manufactures the Kotex Natural Balance tampons, which is still ongoing.

The model is now a women’s health advocate, teaching girls about the dangers of TSS.


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