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“I was 10 minutes from death and lost both my legs because of a tampon”, Model says


A model has revealed how she she nearly died after getting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) caused by a tampon.

Lauren Wasser, 35, from Santa Monica, California, who had both her legs amputated as a result of TSS, reflected on the lasting impact of her near-death experience on The Diary Of A CEO podcast with Steven Bartlett.

What started as flu-like symptoms left her suffering a massive heart attack and being put on life support as gangrene began to consume both of her legs, which led to a below-the-knee amputation of both limbs.

Now the Los Angeles-based model is determined to warn women and young girls about the potential risks associated with tampons through promoting legislation for transparency in feminine hygiene products.

In 2012, the athletic then 24-year-old turned down a full basketball scholarship to a top university to focus on her flourishing career in fashion.

However life took an unpredictable turn when she started to feel unwell and she thought she might be coming down with the flu.

Lauren Wasser

She was found in her apartment ten minutes from death, face down, unconscious on her bedroom floor covered in feces and vomit, after her mother called police for a wellness check when she had not heard from her for a while.


While in the hospital her fever reached 107 degrees, she suffered a heart attack and her organs began to fail before she was put into a medically induced coma.

An infectious disease doctor ordered staff to check if she had a tampon in and after a test was done, she was diagnosed with TSS.

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare and life-threatening bacterial infection. It is commonly misdiagnosed because the symptoms resemble other more common illnesses.

While her life was saved, the damage to Lauren’s legs from gangrene was irrepairable, and doctors needed to amputate.

Speaking on the podcast she said: ‘My feet were on fire, it was like someone was lighting my foot on fire, the burning sensation was insane.

‘My right leg was worse than my left, my toes on my left were turning purple but my right side, there was a lot more damage, you could tell. So then the concern came in that basically they needed to amputate my right leg to save my life or I was going to die.’

However Lauren revealed she only found out that her leg needed to be amputated after she overheard a nurse speaking on the phone.

She said: ‘I am lying there, my room is empty and I can hear a nurse behind a curtain, she is saying: ”I have a young girl here, she is 24 years old, who’s going to need a right leg below-the-knee amputation.

‘I remember looking around and thinking, “Is she talking about me, she’s saying I am an amputation?”. And I just started screaming, I was screaming for my mother, my godfather, I was screaming for everyone, saying; “Do not let this person touch me”.

‘I was unaware of the severity of the situation for myself. That was the first time I heard the word amputation.’

At the time, her doctors had recommended amputating both legs, but there was a 50 per cent chance her left leg could be saved, so she took the risk.

She said: ‘I probably didn’t look at my leg for months, I couldn’t even acknowledge that it happened.

Lauren Wasser

Lauren Wasser has since dedicated much of her efforts to raising awareness of TSS and advocating for better transparency in women’s menstrual products.

She said: ‘[Tampons] are made using chlorine bleach, dioxin and synthetic fibres, which create the perfect storm in our bodies.’

‘I have been working with a mother who lost her teenage daughter to TSS when she was 18 – Madeline Mosby. Through the darkness and trauma of that we have joined forces in wanting to change the world and wanting to advocate and pass these bills.

‘She’s been doing a lot of the groundwork like starting her foundation There is a bill that we are working on to pass.’

She has also been working with the  Democratic congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to promote legislation requiring manufacturers to list all ingredients of feminine hygiene items on their packaging.

Lauren has also been making her mark in the fashion industry, starring in campaigns for Lacoste, Furla and Shiseido, and acquiring the nickname of fashion’s Girl with the Golden Legs, as both her prosthetic legs are gold.

TSS occurs when usually harmless Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus bacteria, which live on the skin, invade the bloodstream and produce dangerous toxins.

Symptoms include a high fever, low blood pressure, vomiting, confusion and seizures.

It most commonly occurs in women using tampons. Each year toxic shock syndrome affects about one in 100,000 women.

Tampon boxes come with a warning of the deadly infection after leaving it in for more than eight hours, although Wasser said she changed hers regularly.


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