Shenikwa’s Story

When I was a college student I decided to use tampons in conjunction with pantyliners. I had off and on issues with vaginal dryness but was too uncomfortable to talk about the issue with a physician. It was enough that I went to the gynecologist appointments.

Only months later I had the scare of my life. It was like any day:  running late for classes, heavy flow, and general craziness.  I was hanging out with my sorority sisters and used the bathroom. I pulled the tampon out.  It looked a little shorter and irregular.  I didn’t think about it because there was a big party at another university. I had so many different events happening like my trip overseas and prestigious internship plus  I thought I was invincible.

A couple of weeks later I was using the bathroom and when I looked down there was a little piece of something that looked like tissue. It was weird. But by now I was tired and feeling overwhelmed.  I didn’t want to worry my parents so I didn’t call home. I had to work on school work and finals were around the corner.  I convinced myself that if I didn’t feel better then I’d just get checked out at when I went back home.  By the time finals came I thought I was sick with a “cold”.

By the time my last exam came, I had to go to the health center.  Students called it “the quack shack”.  But I went anyway. I was running a temp of 99.  I was like wow.  I’m pretty cold natured – my normal temp is actually a little lower than most. I didn’t know that the “99” was the equivalent or another person having a 100 temp.

The next day I was throwing up. I thought it was the cafeteria food. I had a meal plan or maybe the Mexican food (I went out with my friend who’s now my hubby).   The next I was still throwing up. By then I was cramping too.  My friend came over to take me home. I was all packed. I’d just check my grades when I got home. He looked at me. Felt my head. He told me to sit down. But I didn’t know he packed my entire room in his car. I fell asleep. He felt my head again and told me. I’m taking you to a hospital.

I went. I didn’t know I was running a fever of 101. The ER doctor told me that I probably had a cold and gave me some meds. I thought I was waiting for discharge papers when the nurse came in to do a pregnancy test and pap.  The pregnancy test was negative. and the pap test was ok.

Later learned that the Dr noted there were some pieces of what looked like tissue inside of me. Several days later the pap came back irregular. I told them I was still sick and cramping. Then he gave me diagnosis of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

They discharged me.  My friend took me home. I was so knocked out that he unpacked the car and stayed.  By the weekend my stomach was cramping like crazy. I still had a fever evne though I was on a prescription fever reducer and pain aid. After a few more days I couldn’t take it so I made an appointment with my gynecologist.

I trusted him. He did another pap. After the test he told me he wanted to feel around. I was mortified. He noticed that, well, there was something like tissue on his glove and asked if I used tampons. He reviewed my chart and asked several more questions. . I told him everything and that the ER doctor said it was Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and the school doctor said it was a cold.

The nurse came back and told me to go to his office. When I walked in the office the doctor was talking on the phone, but he motioned to me to come in. He just kept saying. “ok.” until he hung up the phone.  The doctor told me that medicine is art and not all doctors are good artists.  He told me about my body and that if I ever didn’t feel right about something I should seek a second opinion.  He told me that if I act uninvolved my doctor may just rush me along. I could hardly believe the first two doctors had both given me the wrong diagnosis.  I was told I had Toxic Shock Syndrome.

There were still pieces of the retained tampon in me.  The doctor had to remove those, which was uncomfortable since I was a virgin. He removed what was left.  That was the last time I ever used a tampon. I have not used one since and never will.

Thankfully I survived to tell my story.  Now I am married with four kids (3 girls and 1 boy). I’m open and honest with my kids. My oldest already knows my story and some day they all will.


  1. I’m pretty sure that, virgin or not, the removal of all those pieces of tissue would have been terribly uncomfortable. I’m more than a little surprised that so many medics didn’t consider TSS before writing you off, and I’m glad that their ignorance didn’t kill you! You must be very resilient to have gone through that for so long.

  2. Tampons are a tricky business, and that is why I do not encourage young girls to wear them; Reason for that is you are not aware of your body. As a Microbiologist we often have retained products of menstruation that have been sent to us the major cause of Yoxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is caused by an organism called Staphylococcus aureus (Staph aureus), which is usually found on the surface of your skin or in your nose. The problem arises is because some of the products have the organism in the tampon or more often the organism is introduced into the vagina from your skin. The bacteria produce toxins, and it is these toxins that will cause your body to go into shock and can result in death. My advice is if you really hate pads use organic tampons and change them every three hours at least and check that their complete tampon has been removed. Today’s tampons are not made with cotton but are made of Rayon a synthetic material these can cause a number of problems. Do not use tampons when you first start your period as it can be very painful and causes u problems not just TSS.