Fashion model Lauren Wasser is recovering in hospital after having surgery to remove her left leg more than five years after a diagnosis of toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
Wasser, 29, contracted TSS in 2012, which resulted in the amputation of her right leg.
“Thank you so much for stopping by it really meant the world,” Wasser wrote on her Instagram after posing in a picture with para-athlete and double amputee Amy Purdy following her surgery. “Thank you for showing me that life is only going to get better and that I have so much life to live.”
Wasser was 24 when everything started to happen.
According to the New York Post, Wasser was texting friends about a party when she started to feel unwell. She thought it might have been the flu.
However, she went to the party regardless but was sent home when her friends noticed she was appearing sick.
A few days later, Wasser was found face down in her apartment by police. She had a fever, her kidneys were failing and she had suffered a heart attack.
While there, the specialist checked to see if she had a tampon inserted. Once located it was sent to the lab and the results came back positive for TSS.
Things were not looking good for the model as her family was advised by hospital staff to start preparing funeral arrangements.
At one point Wasser was placed in a medically induced coma. Once out of the coma, the doctors told her that amputation was the only option, otherwise she could die, the New York Post says.
Wasser detailed her story in a personal essay for InStyle magazine, where she spoke of experiencing excruciating pain daily, as a result of the TSS.
“I have a golden leg that I am completely proud of, but my left foot has an open ulcer, no heel and no toes,” she wrote in the 2017 essay before her second surgery. “Over the years, my body has produced a lot of calcium, which causes my bones to grow on that foot.”
She added, “Basically, my brain is telling my toes to grow back – and it got to the point where I need surgery to shave the bones down because it becomes too unbearable to walk.”
While tampons do not directly cause TSS according to the government of Canada, tampon use is linked.
Using tampons can increase the risk of vaginal dryness and vaginal ulcers, especially if the tampons being used are more absorbent that needed to control menstrual flow.
TSS is rare and is caused when toxins made by certain strains of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (Staph) get into the bloodstream, the government of Canada website explains.
There was an epidemic of TSS in North America in the 1980s, the website says. This was associated with women using high-absorbency tampons, which caused the strains of toxin-producing bacteria.
Symptoms of TSS are similar to the flu and can include high fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting and disorientation. It may also cause low blood pressure, shock dehydration, sore throat, muscle pain, peeling skin and a rash that resembles a sunburn. It can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated immediately.
The disease is not only limited to menstruating women, though. Men, non-menstruating women and children can also be at risk of contracting TSS. However, younger women under 30 are at greater risk than older women of getting TSS because they have not yet fully developed the antibodies to the toxin that causes the disease.
While the number of reported cases in Canada is not readily available, the government does say there have only been a few cases reported over the last number of years – half of which were associated with tampons.