In 2011, Deborah Usher was a healthy 27-year-old mother and hotel manager living in Wales. In August of that year, she began felling ill. At first, it seemed like a normal flu – but then it kept getting worse.
Eventually, when she couldn’t speak or walk, she had to be rushed to the intensive care unit.
Doctors put her into a coma for a week in hopes that rest might help her. But things continued to worsen as doctors tried – and failed to wake her.
As Deborah continued to lay in a coma, doctors told her family to prepare for the worst. She was placed on life support. But then, one week later, she awoke.
But her ordeal was far from over – no, it was just beginning; when Deborah awoke, should had no recollection of who she was. She still couldn’t speak or walk.
Doctors eventually determined that Deborah was suffering from toxic shock syndrome. What caused it?
What Is Toxic Shock Syndrome And How Do Tampons Cause It?
Toxic shock syndrome is a serious, potentially fatal, medical condition that occurs when staphylococcus aureus bacteria (which commonly resides on skin) enters a person’s bloodstream.
All tampons have the potential to cause microscopic tears in the vaginal wall through which this bacteria can enter.
But the largest risk is with super-absorbent tampons – the kind Deborah had been using prior to her illness. These tampons dry out the vagina, increasing the likelihood of tears.
According to WebMD, blood-soaked tampons are a very common place for staphylococcus aureus growth and reproduction.
It’s important to note that, although toxic shock syndrome usually appears in women who use tampons, it can happen to anyone.
Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome
If you notice the following, it’s recommended that you head to the hospital immediately:
- A fever 38.9º C or higher
- A widespread red rash on palms and soles
- Low blood pressure
- Severe headaches
Deborah’s Story Continued
Unfortunately, Deborah’s story hits home just how long-term the damage caused by toxic shock syndrome can be.
In 2015, she said:
“I would never use tampons again after I know what I do now. They’ve completely ruined my life. Four years on and I still have a weak immune system, I don’t think some of my memories will ever come back.”
To make matters worse, Deborah could be stricken with the illness again; 30% of women who get toxic shock syndrome experience it again.
What To Use Instead Of Tampons
Keep in mind that toxic shock syndrome is a rather rare condition. If you are concerned, however, you’ve got some options.
If you plan on using tampons, stay away from the super-absorbent variety. Also be sure to change tampons regularly; in most cases of infection, tampons were left in for more than 30 hours.