We’ve all heard of the dangers of toxic shock syndrome, but one student recently experienced it firsthand—and almost didn’t live to tell the tale.
Emily Pankhurst, a 20-year-old student in the United Kingdom, thought she was just feeling stressed out over her finals. However, she was actually suffering from TSS after accidentally leaving in a tampon for over a week—nine days, to be precise. In January, she originally put the tampon in, but due to studying stress, she forgot she had already inserted one and put in another—then, later, only took the second one out.
For a few days, she felt fine. . . until her stomach grew bloated. “My mum, Diana, said I should go to the doctor,” she said. “I did and they took tests but nothing appeared to show up. I was feeling really ill by that stage. I was hot and dizzy and felt really strange. I was bleeding more and my mum suggested I feel about and see if there was anything there.”
When she did, she found the tampon. “When I finally realised the tampon was in me and I pulled it out it was pure black,” Emily told The Mirror. “It was obviously coated in bacteria. I wouldn’t have known what it was apart from the string. . . I thought it was disgusting to be honest. But I also thought once I’d removed it, I would feel better.”
She immediately threw it out, but soon noticed her speech was slurred, her skin became mottled, and she was feeling faint, which prompted her to go to the hospital. “I can’t remember much, but mum said I kept repeating, ‘I feel ill – my stomach. . . I know now that was the poison entering my blood stream,” she told The Mirror.
She was transferred to intensive care for three days, where Emily experienced pain like she had never felt before—and the TSS made it difficult for her to walk for some time. “[The] doctors said if I had left it any longer I would be dead,” she told The Mirror.
Emily, who’s now mostly recovered but can’t walk long distances, credits her mother with saving her life. “I put my illness down to stress and ignored the symptoms,” she said. “But mum knew it was something more and pushed me to feel better. She saved my life. I blamed deadlines, returning to uni after the New Year and exams. Actually I was seriously ill.”
Emily says she will “never wear a tampon again,” and she encourages girls to research the dangers of TSS. “Through research I have found that sepsis is not so common in cases such as mine. However, girls my age are not aware of the dangers of using tampons,” she told The Mirror. “It is so important to keep an eye on your health, especially during stressful life experiences. I hope my story can help others like myself to take care of your health and not take your life for granted because you never know what might be around the corner.”