Model Lauren Wasser Tragically Going to Lose Second Leg to Toxic Shock Syndrome
At 24 years old, Lauren Wasser was living her dream as a model in Los Angeles when the unthinkable happened. She tragically lost a portion of her right leg to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), and now doctors tell her she will inevitably lose a second leg.
Lauren is an inspiring example of how tragedy can refine and re-purpose a life because her life is far from over. Her purpose as an advocate is only just beginning. This is her story.
On October 3rd of 2012, Lauren woke up feeling off as she told InStyle magazine, but she pointed out that she attributed it to the beginning of flu season. She was on her menstruation cycle and realized she had run out of tampons so she made a quick run to the grocery store. Throughout the day she continued to feel worse, especially after changing her tampon, and contacted her friend to let her know she might not make it to her birthday party that evening. She did muster the energy to get out of bed and take a shower, and she changed her tampon again before leaving for the party in spite of not feeling well. Lauren felt like “a truck hit her”, when friends mentioned upon entering the restaurant that she didn’t "look so well". Within a few minutes she headed home.
Lauren and her mother are very close. When Lauren didn’t respond to her mother’s messages, her mother asked the police to do a welfare check. The policeman told her to call her mother because Lauren was really sick and left. Lauren was running a high fever, but refused to get an ambulance upon her mother’s suggestion because she stated she was unaware of the fever at the time. She asked her mother to check in on her in the morning.
Lauren told InStyle in an interview: “After that, I only know what I’ve been told. 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.”
At first the doctors and nurses were bewildered as to why this young, healthy girl would have such severe symptoms. The tampon was sent to a lab, and within three days they had the chilling answer: toxic shock syndrome.
Meanwhile Lauren was placed into a medically induced coma, her organs were shutting down, her blood pressure was unstable, she suffered a heart attack, her fever blazed out of control, and she was put on life support. When she woke up a week and a half later she weighed 200 pounds due to the fluids and pressers she had been given to stabilize her blood pressure. They saved Lauren’s vital organs, but her legs did not receive ample blood flow. Gangrene developed in her right leg, and the heel and toes of her left foot were severely damaged. Her right leg was amputated. Understandably, Lauren opted to try to save her left leg though the surgeons recommended an amputation of both legs.
Today Lauren faces the inevitable loss of her left leg within the next several months though she fought to save it. However, Lauren is winning her fight to develop awareness for TSS. She told InStyle magazine: “Toxic Shock Syndrome cost me my leg, but, years later, I have since dedicated myself to raising awareness about TSS prevention. I am comfortable in my new role as an advocate against an affliction that affects thousands. I want to educate women about the potential risks of using tampons. It is time that we, as consumers, demand safer products and more transparency about what is going into our bodies.”
Lauren Wasser pointed out the Robin Danielson Act in her interview. The bill is named after a woman who lost her life to TSS in 1998. It requires feminine hygiene product companies to disclose what is going into these products and the long-term health effects of those ingredients. This bill has been rejected 10 times.
The vagina is the most absorbent part of a woman’s anatomy. Women deserve the right to know what they are putting into their bodies, and a mere warning about TSS on a box label does not qualify as information. Without ample information and education, women cannot make informed choices and the consequences can be grave indeed.
The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine categorizes tampons as a prime example of biologically incompatible technology. Tampons can react with constituent bacteria and women’s menstrual cycles to “create the ideal environment for the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria to live and flourish in some women.”
Women Do Have Choices
What choices do women have today? Women have the choice to implement alternative feminine hygiene products that do not pose a risk of TSS. Many women choose to skip tampons altogether, but there are organic cotton tampons available in the market that may be a safer choice than the typical synthetic fibers found in commercial tampons. There are also organic cotton pads available as well. In the UK, many women opt for a menstrual cup made from medical silicon, and the trend is spreading in the US as well.
Ernest Hemingway wrote that “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” I would say that Lauren Wasser is the living epitome of this statement. She serves as an inspiration to all of us that we can be strong at the broken places.
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