A woman accidentally left her tampon in for weeks, causing a near-death case of toxic shock syndrome.
Kelsey Foster, 29, told news.com.au that when she started feeling some pelvic pain, she didn’t think much of it — pain in that area was not new to her.
She told the outlet she recently had been suffering from gallbladder and liver issues, putting her in and out of the hospital over the last few months. She also suffers from endometriosis, which the WHO describes as “a disease in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus,” and can cause severe pelvic pain.
“I’ve been in and out of hospital five times in the last two months for severe cramping and pain,” she explained. “It was discovered I had gallstones and then my gallbladder collapsed. My liver also showed signs of irritation.”
But she found the real source of this specific cramping in an unexpected way: “One day, I went to the bathroom and I felt something ‘plonk’ out of me.”
The New South Wales resident told the outlet, “I thought it was just another blood clot, which happens to me a lot. But it was an old tampon.
“I was absolutely shocked. I couldn’t believe it.”
Ms Foster said she wasn’t sure how long the tampon had been inside of her, but she estimated that she put it in “at least six weeks ago, as that is when my last period was. My menstrual cycle is very irregular.”
Ms Foster said she probably forgot to take it out due to her frequent hospital visits, lack of sleep, and the stress that her medical conditions induced.
She reportedly kept the tampon and put it in a zip-lock bag to show her doctors; the doctors ran tests on her, and eventually diagnosed her with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
According to the Cleveland Clinic, TSS is a “rare but potentially life-threatening condition” that can occur when certain strains of bacteria produce poison, which then enter your bloodstream and affect your organs. TSS affects 1 in every 100,000 people, and is more common in cisgendered females.
When using a tampon, bacteria may become trapped in your vagina and enter your uterus via your cervix, the Cleveland Clinic explained. “Bacteria may grow on tampons, especially if they aren’t changed often enough. Bacteria may also grow if your menstrual flow is light and you use a super-absorbent tampon. Tampons can also cause tiny cuts in your vagina, and bacteria can enter your bloodstream.”
There isn’t a designated time that symptoms are likely to start showing up after putting in a tampon, but the Cleveland Clinic recommended that tampons should be removed from your vagina after eight hours to lower your risk of infection.
Although the disease is often associated with tampons, there are many other potential causes. TSS can happen when bacteria enters any open wounds on your body.
In Ms Foster’s case, she said the doctors told her, “It was very much a ‘you’re very lucky you’re not dead’ situation.” She wasn’t exaggerating as around 30 per cent to 70 per cent of TSS cases result in death, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
“I’m just thankful I found the tampon when I did. Toxic shock can kill you in a matter of days. I was super lucky it hadn’t gotten to that stage,” Ms Foster continued. TSS symptoms often have a sudden onset, and can occur just days after the bacteria invades the bloodstream, the Cleveland Clinic stated.
The Australian woman said that she wanted to share her story to make more people aware of the dangers of TSS. “Talking about periods should not be shameful,” she said. “There is a lot of shame and stigma around any menstrual talk and it means that conditions like Toxic Shock Syndrome are simply not discussed.”
She also gave a recommendation for all of the tampon-wearers out there: “I suggest everyone set reminders if they have to when using these sanitary products.”
While signs indicate that TSS “is shutting my organs down,” Ms Foster said, she is being treated and “on the road to recovery.” She is being treated at home under doctor supervision, the outlet reported.
“It is a deadly condition,” she said. “It is no joke.”
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