In 2012, model Lauren Wasser found herself fighting for her life after contracting toxic shock syndrome (TSS). As a healthy 24 year old living and working in LA, it’s the last thing she could have expected and her experiences show how far-reaching its effects can be.
Telling her story in InStyle , Lauren shares how she contracted TSS after using a tampon while on her period. After exhibiting flu-like symptoms, she was found unresponsive by police in her flat with a fever of 108 and covered in her own faeces and vomit. She was rushed to hospital where a lab test of her tampon showed evidence of TSS. She was put into a medically induced coma and as well as causing her organs to shut down, she suffered a heart attack and was put on life support.
Due to the pressers and fluids that she was given to save her vital organs, her limbs weren’t able to get the blood supply they required. As a result, she was at risk of losing her legs and, after gangrene set into her right leg, the decision was made to amputate it. She also lost all five toes on her left foot and her heel was left severely damaged.
In the years that followed, Lauren’s ordeal has continued to take its toll on her physically and mentally. She sank into a deep depression and her body’s production of calcium has led to her bones to grow on her left foot, leaving her in huge amounts of pain when she walks and requiring surgery to shave them down. Now, five years later, she faces having to have her left leg also amputated in a few months time.
Despite all of this, Lauren has made it her mission to help those who have TSS know that they’re not alone and make sure that other women don’t have to go through what she did. Having found invaluable support from online communities, she also found strength from her girlfriend, photographer Jennifer Rovero, who took pictures of her while she recovered. “The process was a sort of therapy for me, which Jennifer coined as ‘photo therapy,’” she said. “I grew to see the beauty and strength in myself and my journey through the lens of her camera.” When shooting, they asked a number of girls if they knew what TSS was, and many said no.
With her sights firmly set on TSS prevention, she’s taken inspiration from US congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who is currently trying to pass the Robin Danielson Act, named after a woman who lost her life to TSS in 1998. “The bill requires feminine hygiene product companies to disclose exactly what is going into these products and what their long-term health effects are,” explains Lauren. “Shockingly, the bill has been rejected 10 times. Considering that the vagina is the most absorbent part of a woman’s body and is a gateway to many of our vital organs, it is crucial that consumers know the reality of what could happen to them.”
She finishes her article by saying: “I am writing this in hopes that you will understand that we, as women, need more education about TSS. It is time that we, as consumers, demand safer products and more transparency about what is going into our bodies.”
A true survivor, her story is certain to be an inspiration to amputees, sufferers of TSS and women everywhere.
For more information on the symptoms, causes and treatment of TSS, visit the NHS website .
Imagery from Instagram @theimpossiblemuse. Photography by @camraface