Woman almost dies from TSS after leaving tampon in for 9 days

Feb 25, 2016 at 11:49 p.m. ET
Image: AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

A British woman feels lucky to be alive after getting Toxic Shock Syndrome from a forgotten tampon.

Emily Pankhurst of Kent was busy studying for exams when her period started in January. She put in a tampon and forgot to remove it before inserting another one. She removed the second tampon, but in the days afterward she started experiencing unexplained bloating and bloody discharge.

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A doctor's visit didn't answer any questions, but she "was feeling really ill by that stage. I was hot and dizzy and felt really strange," the 20-year-old told Metro. “I was bleeding more and my mum suggested I feel about and see if there was anything there.”

She took a shower and found the unpleasant cause. "When I finally realized the tampon was in me and I pulled it out it was pure black," she said. "It was obviously coated in bacteria. I wouldn’t have known what it was apart from the string."

Pankhurst immediately threw it out, but soon after she started slurring her words and felt faint. She was rushed to the hospital and put into ICU where she lost her mobility and almost died from sepsis.

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Her symptoms are not unlike other victims of TSS. It typically starts similarly to the flu, but can quickly devolve into fever and death. A 13-year-old girl died after contracting TSS in 2014, passing away from a staph infection just one week after her diagnosis.

And as for those who do survive? The effects can be long-lasting. Model Laura Wasser lost her leg after contracting TSS. Luckily, it sounds like Pankhurst will be fine and is currently recovering at home.

“Through research I have found that sepsis is not so common in cases such as mine," she continued. “However, girls my age are not aware of the dangers of using tampons."

It's very easy to avoid TSS — just be sure to wash your hands when handling tampons and always change them regularly. However, mistakes do happen and Pankhurst feels lucky to be alive.

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"It is so important to keep an eye on your health, especially during stressful life experiences," she continued. "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.”