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Toxic shock syndrome survivor

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) was described in XX century in some women who used old models of vaginal tampons. News appeared in public news in 1980s but since then tampon producers changed dramatically the quality of vaginal hygienic (menstrual) tampons. This is why the number of TSS cases dropped significantly but still there are cases of toxic shock which starts from localized staphylococcal infection and intoxication. Vaginal Staphylococcus aureus produces dangerous toxins which trigger TSS symptoms. Vaginal tampon alone is not enough to cause TSS. This syndrome can occur if staphylococcus present in vagina.

Sometimes toxic shock could appear in women who use vaginal contraception (contraceptive diaphragms, vaginal sponges) and in cases of wound infections.

During TSS staphylococcus produces massive amounts of cytokines (toxins, cell-mediator chemicals) that produce fever, rash, low blood pressure, tissue injury and shock.

Special attention was paid to Lauren Wasser, a model who lost her leg to toxic shock syndrome in 2012.

Toxic shock syndrome at Lauren Wasser

Lauren Wasser, model and athlete, had very interesting and successful life. Her parents also were successful models and she from her childhood already participated in attractive performances. When Lauren was only two months old, she appeared in Italian Vogue alongside her mother. She was very beautiful attractive girl – blond hair, blue eyes, tall beauty. She was fond off basketball, biking and modeling. She had cozy apartment in Santa Monica and was embedded in Los Angeles flashy social scene, participating in most popular events. Suddenly, at 24, life of Lauren Wasser was dramatically changed – she was on her period, she felt weak, dizzy and somehow losing control. She thought about possible flu but general feelings were strong and unusual. It should be mentioned that during last 11 years she was using same brand of menstrual tampon and may be this is why she could not realize any connection with vaginal tampon. She knew perfectly how correctly insert the tampon and how often she needed to change the tampon (every 3-4 hours). But on that day Lauren reported that she replaced her tampon in the morning, afternoon and again in the evening. She went to bed. She had no idea how long she was in bed and she could not realize if it was day or night. The next thing she remembers is waking up to her blind cocker spaniel perched on her chest and barking aggressively. Someone was pounding on the door and yelling. Actually her mother called police because her daughter disappeared and did not reply to calls. Nobody realized what is happening. Next day Lauren’s friends found her face down on her bedroom floor.

She was rushed to hospital with high temperature (41.7°C). Lauren’s internal organs were shutting down and she’d suffered massive heart attack. Doctors couldn’t stabilize her because they did not know the cause of this dangerous condition. When specialist from infection department was invited, the first question was “Does she have a tampon in?” Unfortunately she had old (not changed) tampon with foul smell. Doctors immediately sent the tampon to specialized laboratory and answer came positive for toxic shock syndrome.

Actually Lauren’s life was saved by infectious disease specialist – it was the last-minute diagnosis of very rare illness and life threatening condition caused by toxins produced by some bacterial infections (vaginal Staphylococcus aureus). It was toxic shock syndrome, most commonly linked to use of superabsorbent tampons.

Lauren Wasser after toxic shock syndrome

I was on my dead bed in the fall of 2012. I thought my life was over. Doctors were fighting for my life and they were forced to amputate my right leg below the knee. I was sure my rising modeling career was over.
Lauren Wasser

Lauren was sure that she would never be accepted again and that she never would be able model again. She thought the modern society would not be able to accept her appearance. But after four years Lauren Wasser made her New York Fashion Week debut, proudly sporting her prosthetic leg on the runway. It was very difficult emotional decision. It was difficult not only for Lauren but also for fashion organizers.

I am more beautiful than I’ve ever been because I’ve experienced so many things, and I can relate to so many different people. And you know, it’s just made me a better person.
Lauren Wasser

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