A Michigan woman is speaking out about the dangers of tampon use connected to toxic shock syndrome after doctors misdiagnosed her with a throat infection.
Brooke Wilson started to feel what she thought were cold symptoms while on her period, but overnight her swollen, sore throat worsened and she woke with a burning fever. Having removed her tampon earlier that day, she had no idea her illness could be related to toxic shock syndrome.
“It didn’t even cross my mind,” she told Yahoo Canada. “When I said ‘Oh, this would never happen to me’, I meant it,” Wilson told Yahoo Canada. “My mind was so foggy during this time, all I remember is the pain.”
Wilson went to the hospital, but was sent home by doctors who said her symptoms were common for someone with strep throat. Later that day she began experiencing vomiting and diarrhea and was too weak to leave her bed, so her boyfriend took her to the emergency room. She lost consciousness and was admitted to the ICU.
“I eventually wasn’t able to function on my own. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t walk, I had to use a bed pan to use the bathroom, and I was constantly getting needles… I remember doctors continuously working on me to figure out what was wrong but could not pin point it. As time went on, they didn’t want to diagnose it as something as simple as the flu because they knew this was something way worse,” she said.
The next two days were the scariest of her life. After she was properly diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome — moments away from death — doctors worked tirelessly to stabilize her.
Six days later, the 23-year-old had fully recovered. While all of this happened in 2014, Wilson is only now just opening up about her experience to raise awareness of the symptoms. She credits one nurse for recognizing the symptoms due to her career in the 1980s when there was a TSS epidemic in both the United States and Canada. Due to her experience, the ICU nurse immediately recognized Wilson was suffering from TSS, not a generic throat infection.
“My ICU nurse was amazing… [she] has been working in the ICU scene for about 25 years,” said Wilson. “Luckily, back in the day she had seen the TSS symptom once and was able to inform other doctors on her discovery. This lady helped save my life.”
While Wilson is comfortable sharing her story now, she says the journey wasn’t an easy one.
“Once I magically came over the infection, the improvement in my body was tough, but incredible! With correct care, fluids and rest I had such an impressive progress. I was learning to walk again, slowly began to eat and use the bathroom on my own,” she said. “Once I left the hospital, I was terrified of being on my own wondering if this was going to happen again. I spent some time back home with my mom so she could help keep an eye on me.”
Wilson says that while her experience with TSS was scary, it’s her “duty” to share her story.
“It took me several years to reach a comfortable state mentally and emotionally to talk about this traumatizing situation. I have seen a rise in TSS cases lately and believed deep in my heart it’s time for me to share my story,” she said.
According to Health Canada, there have only been a few cases of TSS reported over the last couple of years — but it’s still extremely dangerous.
To avoid contracting TSS, women can adhere to the strict tampon use guidelines that recommend only wearing the feminine products for four to six hours at a time and regularly changing them. You should also use the lowest absorbency possible and opt for pads when possible.
For Wilson, her near-death experience has opened up a whole new approach to life and she wants to help other women understand the importance of talking about tampon safety.
“I hope for these stories to become a necessary talk with loved ones when beginning to use tampons. I’m hoping my story helps save someone else’s life,” she said.