The model who lost her leg to Toxic Shock Syndrome is now speaking out about the tampon disease

All Lauren Wasser wants you to know is that Toxic Shock Syndrome is very real. Oh, and she wants her leg back. The model and athlete, who lost her right leg and the toes on her left foot in 2012, is fighting for women to better understand the life-threatening reality of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

TSS, also known as the tampon disease, almost killed Wasser when she was 24. She was rushed to the hospital, still wearing her tampon, when her fever reached 108 and she suffered a major heart attack that caused doctors to put her in a medically induced coma for days. She was also put on life support. At the time of amputation, Wasser remembers the writing on her legs: “yes” on the right and “no” on the left. And she vividly remembers the agony she experienced during the 24 hours after her surgery.

Five years later, Wasser is telling her story, explaining her mental and physical pain in detail and hoping to educate women about the true dangers of tampons.

"The vagina is the most absorbent part of a woman’s body, and you place a tampon in that place that can bring with it chemicals, toxins," Wasser wrote in an op-ed for InStyle. "They say that it's rare, and for the longest time I felt alone being a victim of TSS."

But Wasser isn’t alone. In 2016, five cases of menstrual-related TSS were reported in the state of Michigan, where there had been a yearly reported average of four in years past, according to the Washington Post. Where did this spike come from? Many, including Wasser, believe it has to do with the current generation’s lack of public awareness and the word “rare” being used to describe a serious problem. While five isn’t a lot, it’s still too many for a feminine hygiene-specific disease.

Wasser and her family filed a lawsuit against the Kimberly-Clark Corp., which manufactures and distributes Kotex brand tampons in the U.S. Corporations like this are supposed to provide the FDA with “a list of component materials (such as chemicals, additives, finishing agents used) and a risk analysis concerning vaginal injury, tissue reactions and infections,” Deborah Kotz of the FDA told WaPo.

With all this in mind, how do cases of TSS happen at all? That’s what Wasser is here to talk about. While her experience is singular, she believes it’s an example for all women.

"Toxic Shock Syndrome cost me my leg, but, years later, I have since dedicated myself to raising awareness about TSS prevention," Wasser wrote. "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. TSS has been killing and harming women for more than 30 years: let that sink in. How many lives is it going to take for something to change?"

Wasser has since been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for her incredible work thus far in the field of menstrual health. Expect to learn much more from her in the future.

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