By Rebecca Drew
A YOUNG woman has told how she nearly died after contracting toxic shock syndrome from a TAMPON which left her ‘knocking on death’s door’ – after doctors initially dismissed her flu-like symptoms for strep throat.
When waitress, Brooke Wilson (23) from South Lyon, Michigan, USA, started feeling poorly whilst on her period with a sore, swollen throat she thought that she was just coming down with a regular cold. She took her tampon out that day but overnight her symptoms worsened, and she woke with a fever of 41 degrees which she couldn’t get down by taking a cold shower, drinking fluids or having a cold towel on her head. She decided to go to hospital only to be turned away by doctors who said she had strep throat.
Once back at home, Brooke stayed in bed and lost all strength in her arms and legs to walk or even turn on the television. She also developed diarrhoea and couldn’t hold down food without vomiting immediately after. Worried, her boyfriend at the time, rushed her to A&E once more where Brooke drifted in and out of consciousness and was eventually admitted to the Intensive Care Unit as tests confirmed her body was failing.
Two days passed with doctors working furiously to hydrate her before she was diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome (TSS) thanks to a nurse who noticed a ‘sun burn-like’ rash on Brooke’s body that she had only ever seen once before over 20-years-ago.
“When I started to feel sick, I thought I was coming down with a regular cold again because my throat was hurting and swelling,” recalled Brooke.
“Overtime, it became difficult to eat and I woke up the next morning twitching and sweating with a fever of 105.9. I did everything possible to bring it down. Tylenol, a cold shower, water, cold towel on my head and nothing worked so we decided to go to hospital. They said I had strep throat and sent me home immediately.
“I went back home and laid in bed all day. My boyfriend at the time left for work that day at 10am and came home at 9pm and I didn’t eat that whole time because I was so weak. I began having diarrhoea, I would crawl to the bathroom because of my muscle fatigue.
“I had to use every last ounce of energy to pull myself up onto the toilet because I couldn’t walk anymore. When you get TSS you get confusion, so obviously that didn’t click as a red flag in my mind.
“My boyfriend got home and asked if I even turned the TV on all day and I said I couldn’t do it, it was too hard to even lift up my arms. He made me soup and a Gatorade, and I instantly threw it up and started shaking.
“We decided to go to the emergency room. He drove me there going ninety-miles-per-hour because I couldn’t keep my head up.
“As I sat in my wheel chair, pale skin and eyes rolling back, I could feel myself fading in and out and told my boyfriend we have to go back there now or we’re leaving. I’m dying. Then the lady up front picked me out of everyone and said: ‘bring her back now’ they checked my vitals and everything was gradually failing.
“The doctors were trying so hard to find out what was wrong with me, but they continued to give me antibiotics and bags of fluid because I had severe dehydration. It took about two days in the ICU for me to get diagnosed because one day, my ICU nurse saw the ‘sun burn’ symptom on my private area while working and said that she had seen it before.
“She’d been an ICU nurse for twenty-five-years and remembered back in the eighties when toxic shock syndrome was high back then. She immediately told someone. They all came to see and bam, they finally found out what was wrong because no one ever saw this type of situation.”
TSS is caused by either staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria which usually live harmlessly on the skin, nose and mouth but if they get deeper into the body can release harmful toxins that damage tissue and stop organs from working.
Using tampons, especially if they are left in for longer than recommended or using ‘super absorbent’ ones can raise the risk of contracting TSS.
Brooke’s horrific ordeal happened in July 2014 and she was in hospital for six days. She only now feels ready to share her story to raise awareness for the potentially fatal condition.
She discussed her fear of leaving hospital and the paranoia she felt when she came on her period.
“Recovery was scary because I was scared to be back home wondering if it was going to flare up again. I decided to stay at my mum’s for the week so she could keep an eye on me and help me take the different medications I needed. I required tons of rest and I had to take a month off of work,” said Brooke.
“I was traumatised. I had nightmares and was always paranoid when having my monthly cycle. Even though I can’t wear tampons anymore just pads. It took me years to reach a comfortable state to tell my story and not get upset.
“I actually enjoy now telling my story to help raise awareness to other women. Today, I feel extremely grateful knowing how healthy I am even after a condition like that.
“I feel this happened to me to be a walking miracle to inform other women of this deadly, rare situation. This is something women put themselves at risk every single month and a simple knowledge of it can save your life.
“They told my mom that I was knocking at death’s door and to be prepared for the worst. But I won this battle and want other women to win it as well.
“I raise awareness for TSS to women around me but a goal of mine would be to raise a bigger awareness around the world.”
Brooke is a keen traveller and her near-death experience has taught her the importance to live everyday to the full, she urged other women to get to know their bodies, so they can pick up on the symptoms and learn what is and isn’t normal for them.
“Be aware of the symptoms and listen to your body. Your body is always telling you something so get to know it. Understanding these symptoms and being tampon smart is a must for women,” she said.
“My mum warned me of TSS and the information on the side of the box that none of us cares to notice but I was the typical girl who thought that it wouldn’t happen to me.
“I meet women all the time including my own friends that have the same reaction when I tell them I got TSS – they can’t believe that it actually happens.
“I almost lost my life so I use that as an eye opener. I have been forever grateful since then for my health. Since then, I’ve been enjoying and living my life to the fullest because I was given a second chance.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/thatssobrookeee