Model Lauren Wasser Faces Another Leg Amputation Because of Toxic Shock Syndrome
Model Lauren Wasser will likely lose both of her legs to toxic shock syndrome — and she wants other women to be more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies. In October of 2012, when Wasser was 24, her life changed forever. According to an account she gave to InStyle, Wasser began to feel unwell soon after she used a tampon. “I woke up feeling a bit off but attributed it to be the beginning of flu season, so I didn’t think much of it,” she wrote.
That night she attended a friend’s party, but was told she looked sick and should go home. Wasser woke up to the sound of police knocking on her door. Her mother had called and requested a welfare check. She called her mother and assured her she was OK, that she just needed sleep.
“After that, I only know what I’ve been told,” she wrote. “The police agreed to check on me again and this time found me face down on the floor. I was unresponsive, had a fever of 108, and was covered in my own feces and vomit. They immediately called the paramedics and rushed me to the hospital.”
An infectious disease specialist noticed that Wasser was wearing a tampon when she arrived at the hospital. He sent it to the lab for testing and three days later the results came back with signs of TSS-1 (toxic shock syndrome). What is toxic shock syndrome? According to the Mayo Clinic, it is a life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections that has been mostly associated with the use of super-absorbent tampons.
“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,” Wasser explains. Doctors placed the formerly-healthy 24-year-old into a medically induced coma as her organs began to shut down. Gangrene developed in her right leg. She was told she had a 50 percent chance of saving her left leg but surgeons recommended amputating both.
She fought hard and saved her left leg, but in an interview with the Washington Post she said she will likely lose the other leg soon because she’s in “excruciating pain every day.” Wasser has become an advocate for toxic shock syndrome awareness.
“Every time I turn on the TV it infuriates me. 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 minimized,” she wrote.
Wasser hopes to get federal legislation passed requiring feminine hygiene product companies to disclose exactly what is in their products and to define the long-term effects on health.
“Considering that the vagina is the most absorbent part of a woman’s body and is a gateway to many of our vital organs, it is crucial that consumers know the reality of what could happen to them,” she wrote. “It is time that we, as consumers, demand safer products and more transparency about what is going into our bodies.”