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Model falls seriously ill following tampon use

9Honey logo 9Honey 17/12/2017 Jo Abi
© Instagram/@theimpossiblemuse

Warning: This article contains details that readers may find distressing

Lauren Wasser was on her period in October of 2012 when her whole life changed.

A regular tampon user, the California-based model thought she had the flu when she first fell ill.

Little did she know that just days later, she'd have her right leg amputated from the knee down due to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

"It was October, it was flu season, a lot of my friends were sick with the flu so I thought maybe I just caught the bug," she said during a TEDx talk in Tel Aviv in Israel earlier this year.

Her mother, after not having heard from her sick daughter all day, rushed to her apartment with police and friends only to find Wasser passed out face down on her bedroom floor.

She was rushed to the nearest hospital emergency room where her organs started failing including her kidneys.

Wasser then suffered a massive heart attack.

Doctors couldn't figure out what was going on.

It was only when an infectious diseases doctor - who happened to be on call that day - asked staff to check for a tampon.

"He said, 'Does she have a tampon in'. As soon as they found the tampon and sent it off to the lab it came back as TSS1."

Doctors told Wasser's family she was unlikely to recover.

"The doctors told my mother to plan my funeral, that there was no way I was coming out of this," she said. 

Her next memory was of being in hospital, overhearing a nurse saying she'd need a right leg amputation below the knee. It took months of rehabilitation for Wasser to regain her mobility and begin to believe she'd be able to continue living an independent life.

"Who am I, what am I going to do," she'd ask herself during the gruelling sessions.

"Everything I knew was perfection, was beauty. I wasn't that anymore."

She said the only reason she didn't give into thoughts of self-harm was the thought of her 14-year-old brother coming home from school and finding her.

"I couldn't do that to him," she said. "I couldn't do that to my mother. I couldn't allow myself to give in. I had to show him that no matter what happens in life, that no matter the worst situation and the darkest of times, you have to get up, you have to fight."

Still, Wasser thought she'd never work again.

Thank you so much for having me @GirlCultFest/ @Galore ⚡️⚡️⚡️

A post shared by Lauren Wasser (@theimpossiblemuse) on

Wheelchair-bound, Wasser refused to use her prosthetic limb, however after finding love with photographer Jennifer Rovero who began calling Wesser during her recovery, she became determined to walk up to Rovero's door when they would finally see each other face-to-face.

Now Wasser is working as a model once more, starting with a photo published in VICE magazine, followed by a campaign for American department store Nordstrom for their active wear range.

Then, in 2016, Wasser returned to the runway as part of a show highlighting diverse body types, "showing a different side of beauty, celebrating us," she explained.

Wasser also spends much of her time educating women about the dangers of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

Health Direct Australia advises women to take the following precautions when using tampons, to help prevent TSS:

- Wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon;

- Use low-absorbency tampons if possible;

- Alternate tampons and other sanitary products during yoru period;

- Change tampons as often as advised on the pack;

- Insert a fresh tampon at bedtime and remove it as soon as you wake.

Symptoms of TSS include diarrhoea, sudden high temperature, confusion, dizziness, tiredness, vomiting, aching muscles, headaches, low blood pressure and seizures.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms contact your doctor.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

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