Model loses leg because of toxic tampon

  • 18/12/2017
Model Lauren Wasser lost her right leg at 24 after contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Model Lauren Wasser lost her right leg at 24 after contracting toxic shock syndrome. Photo credit: Getty

A model had a leg amputated after contracting a bacterial infection from her tampon.

Lauren Wasser, 28, was living in Los Angeles in 2012 when she began to feel ill one day. Assuming she was coming down with the flu, she went about her day as normal, running errands that included restocking on her usual brand of tampons. 

The then-24-year-old replaced her used tampon after a few hours as normal and even attended a party that night, despite feeling increasingly sick.

"Just flu-like symptoms," Wasser told Style Like U. "I was feeling nauseous and my head was pounding."

Her friends were concerned for her health and sent her home, where she collapsed. She woke up to police pounding on her door - her mother had called them, after not hearing from her daughter for hours.

Wasser promised to call her the next morning, but she never did. Her mother sent a friend over to her daughter's apartment, who found Wasser face down on her bedroom floor.

"I had a 107F fever [41.6degC], my kidneys were failing, I had a heart attack," she said.

The model was taken to hospital, where doctors were bewildered as to why someone young and healthy was so ill. Fortunately an infectious disease specialist was present, who immediately asked if Wasser had a tampon inside her.

The tampon was sent to the lab and tested positive for toxic shock syndrome, a rare and life-threatening bacterial infection that has been linked to tampon use. It is increasingly common for tampons to be made with synthetic fibres, which can make it easier for bacteria to grow.  

Wasser was placed in an induced coma, pumped with fluids to flush out the toxins and given several blood transfusions.

"They were telling my mum and my godfather to start preparing my funeral, because there was no way I was walking out of there," she told Style Like U. "It would have been a miracle."

Eventually, Wasser was told that gangrene had infected her legs and she would need an amputation, news that filled her with horror.

"I knew my legs were not good, but I just couldn't... hearing those words come out of her mouth and being by myself, it was so surreal.

"I just kept crying and screaming, and wanting my mum."

Wasser's right leg was amputated, as were the toes on her left foot. She still models and campaigns for greater awareness about TSS and tampons, which she frequently posts about on her Instagram account.

In 2015, Vice reported that Wasser's family were seeking legal action against tampon manufacturers to "make a point about the use of synthetic materials in the tampon industry".

Wasser told Vice that she wants tampon packaging to be more clear about the risks of TSS, and to instruct users never to wear tampons overnight.