The Girl With The Golden Legs
Can a small tampon nearly kill you?
Can it put your organs at risk?
Do you know the maximum time for its use?
These questions may seem trivial, much like the instructions which come along with the tampons. However, this ignorance comes at a price.
Ever heard of Toxic Shock Syndrome?
Well, it is a rarely discussed, fatal disease caused by the release of toxins from the overgrowth of a bacteria commonly called Staphylococcus or “staph”.
Lauren Wasser, a 24-year old model from California, experienced the life-threatening symptoms of this disease in 2012. The model was about four months old when she featured on the cover of Italian Vogue alongside her mother. Ever since, she has worked with extremely talented people such as “Boo George”, “David LaChapelle” and more.
Her life took a pivotal turn when the police found her unconscious in her apartment, running a high fever at 107°C. She was rushed to the hospital where she was put in a medication-induced coma to save her life since her organs were failing and her blood pressure was unstable. What began with flu-like symptoms, worsened into renal failure followed by a heart attack. Fortunately, she was found by the police 10 minutes short of dying. After spending 10 days on life support and clinging to the 1% chance of survival, the model conquered TSS, however, her right leg had to be amputated below the knee.
TSS was not just a physical ache for the model but a mental one too. Deep depression plagued Lauren’s life who dreamt of playing for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Her strength, courage, and her girlfriend’s unending support nudged Lauren to return to modeling in 2015. Following the surgery, she endured 5 years of pain before having to lose her leg due to complications from gangrene. Strengthened by the hardships she underwent in her early twenties, Lauren became an advocate for women’s health and hygiene specifically in regard to menstrual healthcare products. She strives to educate menstruators all around the globe.
Lauren worked with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney who re-introduced the Robin Danielson Act. This Act was named after Robin Danielson who died in 1999 from Toxic Shock Syndrome due to the use of high absorbency tampons. According to the official Congress Government website, the bill aims to “establish a program of research regarding the risks posed by the presence of dioxin, synthetic fibers, chemical fragrances, and other components of feminine hygiene products". This fight against restrained transparency, or lack thereof, from the companies who produce these menstrual products, has been particularly prominent since the late 1970s.
According to the Document Journal— “The average woman uses 16,000 tampons throughout her lifetime. Each year people spend upwards of 2 billion dollars on menstrual hygiene products and yet there are significant and worrisome research gaps in our understanding of tampon safety and usage.”
In her interview with Refinery29 regarding TSS, Lauren emphasizes that girls nowadays are getting their periods at a young age — 8, 9, 10 years old. They don’t have the antibodies to fight the toxins that are present in these tampons, becoming the most susceptible to getting it.
Learning from Lauren’s story, it’s crucial to delve deeper into research when it comes to the products we put in our bodies (not just limited to tampons). Being aware of possible complications of using these products, educating ourselves on how our choices affect our mind, body and the environment—a necessity.
Menstrual health and hygiene desperately need attention because it affects more than half the population of the world. While the social stigma around menstruation has made it difficult to study this issue historically, it’s never too late to start. So, let’s read up, research, and give our period the attention and importance it deserves.
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