Janelle’s Story

On March 16, 2004, I was 14 years old when in the evening I was working on a science project and suddenly got flu like symptoms, vomiting, headache and an upset stomach. I was sick all night and reassured my mom that it was just flu and I would be fine to take part in the science fair that afternoon at school. I was still sick that afternoon and into that evening of March 17th I started to vomit up a black substance. My mom phoned the Health Line, where the nurse told her to take me to the emergency.  My temperature was around 102F; with my pajamas on we left for a 45 minute trip to the nearest hospital.  When I arrived the nurses had a bunch of questions, I was fine for the first 10 minutes then I started getting confused and wasn’t sure what was going on anymore.

They admitted me that night, but very suddenly my blood pressure started getting extremely low and quickly got me into the Intensive Care Unit.  Everything was happening so fast, that I don’t remember much except my mom being there.  The next day they diagnosed me with Toxic Shock Syndrome. They told my parents that the only thing going for me was my age, anyone older probably wouldn’t survive. I spent 6 days in the ICU of just sleeping and being hooked up to a bunch of machines and getting daily blood work done. I finally woke up and realized what was going on, my eyes were bright red and had a rash. I had no energy at all, and even though I slept for 6 days, I was still extremely tired. As the days went by we finally thought I was getting better.

During the night, the nurse was doing her regular checks at the machine in my room with her flashlight. She went to the phone and another nurse came in. They hooked me up to oxygen and explained to my mom that my oxygen level was dropping. The next thing I knew I was getting into an ambulance, with a nurse along with me to keep an eye on my levels and with oxygen. We were off to a bigger hospital 2 hours away.  I was given a scan to make sure there wasn’t a blood clot in my lungs. Gladly to say there wasn’t, I spent another 2 nights in the ICU and 7 days in a regular hospital room.  After the 7 days, I returned back to the previous hospital.  By the 5th day of being back at the hospital I started getting restless and wanted to go home. My doctor was concerned because my treatments were given through IV needles a couple times daily. He finally decided to let me go home with antibiotics to finish up for the next couple days.

Till this day I think of how lucky I am to have survived this.


  1. Thats scary! how young and quick it all occured! So sorry she and her family had to go through this.

  2. Darscilla Soanes says:

    So glad that you are still here to share your story with others. I am sure there are many girls that will be educated and see how serious this really can be. I love you very much and I couldn’t bare my life without you. Love you!!!!

  3. Thank goodness all turned out, as Janelle is truly an angel here in earth. I am so glad to know her.

  4. This story has changed my mind about using tampons. I will switch to organic or use a diva cup. It’s insane how quickly this can happen when everyday a girl uses one. Thanks for sharing Janelle!

    • Mandy, Thank you for sharing the impact Janelle’s story made on you and your decision to follow the safer path of organic tampons or Diva cup.
      TSS Survivor and Director of Connectivity for You ARE Loved

  5. I’m glad I came across this story. I have a 13 year old and will let her
    Know about this. It’s scary to think that something you use monthly can take your life
    It someone you care about. Thanks Janelle for sharing your story!

  6. Did this ALL come to you from wearing a tampon? pad?

  7. Hi Beena, It was all from a tampon. It was for about 7-8 hours of wearing the same one,that symptoms started.

  8. Do you remember how long you had the tampon in? Do you remember what size tampon you used? I know TSS can still occur even if you do whatever they suggest, but I would still be very surprised if you got it only had it in for a couple of hours, and used only the size you really needed. I have never had TSS, but I’m still a little bit afraid of it. I used to be SO afraid of it that I would not use tampons AT ALL! I talked about it with a nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office when I went in for a check up when I was about 14 (which is a long time to be scared to death of Toxic Shock Syndrome, considering I was 10 and 3 or 4 months when I got my period). She said that Toxic Shock is very rare, Tampons are very safe, and that I most likely won’t get it unless I leave a tampon in over night or use a bigger tampon than I need. I would be lying to say that that fear went away completely, but I do use tampons when I’m on my period now (even when I’m not swimming, I mostly only use pads at night when I go to bed). I do make sure to do what they suggest for women who prefer tampons. Changing my tampon every 4 hours or so, only using the size I really need, using pads at night when I go to bed, and only using tampons when I know I’m on my period. Even though I do what they suggest, I still watch for any of the symptoms. I also know that if I’m wearing a tampon (or have recently been wearing a tampon) and start experiencing symptoms of illness, to remove my tampon immediately, stop using tampons, and go to the doctor right away.