After being found unconscious, covered in feces and vomit, and near death on her bedroom floor, a California woman had both of her legs amputated after using a common product. She is warning other women everywhere, hoping to save them from suffering the same debilitating fate she has faced.
Lauren Wasser was born into the modeling industry as the daughter of two models, and she always felt beautiful and strong. So, it was unsurprising that she too became a model. However, her life as she knew it collapsed suddenly in 2012. After she began suffering flu-like symptoms, Wasser was found “in her apartment 10 minutes from death, face down, unconscious on her bedroom floor covered in feces and vomit, after her mother called police for a wellness check when she had not heard from her for a while,” Daily Mail reported.
After waking from a medically induced coma in excruciating pain, Wasser found herself unrecognizable. “I had been found unresponsive at home, having suffered a fever of almost [107 degrees], my kidneys failing,” Wasser recalled. “I had had two heart attacks and was given just a one [percent] chance of survival. When I came round a week-and-a-half later, after being placed on life support, I was pumped full of fluid, I weighed 200 pounds, my hair was so matted that my head had been shaved, and my legs were black with gangrene.”
After suffering a 107-degree fever, a massive heart attack, gangrene that consumed her feet, and nearly dying, the then-24-year-old model soon found her right leg and toes from her left foot being amputated in an attempt to save her life. Although her life was saved, she was far from out of the woods. In fact, almost 6 years later in 2018, the model, actress, and now-activist would endure yet another amputation, losing her second leg, according to Insider.
Shockingly, the cause of Wasser’s years-long battle back to health was caused by a common household product routinely used by women around the world each and every month. Lauren Wasser lost her legs due to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), having contracted the life-threatening bacterial infection from a Super-plus tampon, which she says she changed regularly while on her period, just as the box had instructed, according to the Daily Mail.
TSS occurs when “usually harmless Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus bacteria, which live on the skin, invade the bloodstream and produce dangerous toxins,” the Daily Mail explained. Symptoms may include a sudden and high fever, headache, muscle aches, a sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, feeling faint, dizziness, and confusion. These symptoms are often described as flu-like, and because it is so much like the flu, it is easily misdiagnosed, allowing it to progress to life-threatening. And, tampons are a huge risk factor.
Tampon boxes warn that the product should not be left in for more than eight hours due to the risk of TSS, but according to Wasser, she had changed her tampon often while experiencing symptoms of the infection. Having experienced years of “daily excruciating pain” all thanks to a tampon, the Los Angeles-based model has since become an advocate for women, raising awareness about the potentially dangerous effects of tampons on both women and young girls.
In addition to using her voice and story to inform other women and young girls about the risk of TSS, Wasser has also promoted legislation for transparency in feminine hygiene products. After her ordeal, it’s no wonder she wants others to understand the risks. Even after her first amputations, Wasser continued to suffer the consequences of TSS as her body produced calcium, causing bones to grow on her left foot as her brain tried to tell her body that it should grow back her toes, Wasser explained in an Instyle op-ed before losing her second leg.
With an open ulcer on her foot and needing surgery to shave down the bone when it became too unbearable to walk, Wasser knew she would inevitably have her other leg amputated. “In a few months, I’m inevitably going to have my other leg amputated,” she said in 2017. “There’s nothing I can do about it. But what I can do is help make sure that this doesn’t happen to others,” and that’s remained her mission.
In addition to pushing legislation that urges the National Institutes of Health to research potential health risks and test feminine hygiene products to determine their safety, Wasser has spoken publicly about her condition many times, including op-eds, a TED Talk, and sharing her reality on her Instagram account, along with plenty of warnings and valuable information. But, perhaps just as important as being an advocate, the model is also an inspiration.
Having overcome her health obstacles to have a flourishing modeling career, which has seen her in ads and magazines donning her gold prosthetic legs, Lauren Wasser encourages others to keep fighting whatever battles they face. “Reminding you all that a tampon, while using it properly and changing it regularly, took my legs and almost took my life,” Wasser wrote on Instagram. “I’m sharing my story to remind you that if I can overcome the hardest thing in my life, so can you! Nothing is impossible—so, don’t give up, don’t give in, just keep fighting.”