My name is Jessica Evans and this Thanksgiving marks my 14th year of survival from TSS due to tampons.
I was 17 years old when I became ill the day before Thanksgiving in 1999.
It started with nothing more than a fever and nausea. Assuming that I had contracted the flu I rested up and drank plenty of fluids. Within 24 hours I was vomiting and lethargic along with a strange rash on my hands and feet.
My mother was in Tennessee visiting my aunt for the holiday and I had stayed home with my step-father. My step father is a physician and brought me into his clinic where they administered anti-emetics (to stop my vomiting which was almost constant at this point) and sent me home.
As hard as I tried to take my pills to bring my fever down and stop the vomiting I was unable to even get them into my mouth. The one time I succeeded in swallowing them I lost them within seconds. My fever that night was only 101. I was tucked into bed and left to sleep.
I woke in the night and was disoriented and wandered to the bathroom where I spent the night vomiting bile between periods of blacking out. My step father checked me in the morning and I told him I was fine but still not feeling well ( I do not remember this conversation).
When he called me at noon to see if I felt better he said I should try to get some fluids down and he had left me juice in the kitchen downstairs. It must have taken me 30 minutes just to get down the stairs, I was so weak. I was found 45 minutes later, almost to the kitchen, on the floor and passed out.
I was brought into the hospital ER which was busy that day so I was placed in the hallway. Upon triage the nurse took my temperature and it was 106.7, only two days had passed since my temp of 101.
I was rushed into isolation, stripped of my clothes and bathed in ice. My grandmother (a nurse) sat by my side as they did test after test, no clue as to what was happening to me. After a lumbar puncture and an ultrasound it was deemed that had I been left down in the ER for 45 more minutes I would have been found dead. My kidney function was nonexistent. The swelling in my brain was so severe that I only remember bits and pieces of the next two weeks.
By the next day, despite treatment, I had gone into multi-organ failure. I was in respiratory failure and heart failure along with the kidney failure. I had severe encephalopathy from the fever and infection.
I was unable to even roll myself over to throw up in a pan so I just laid there and vomited on myself. I did not know who I was let alone who my family was. I was combative and swore excessively at the staff, my family and strangers who walked by my ICU room. I spoke to people who were not there and screamed about the pain that ran through my whole body. My skin had become dead and I peeled from my hands, my feet, my lips, the inside of my mouth and my tongue (I had no taste buds for 6 months).
Despite their best efforts and the many, many antibiotics the doctor’s had me on I declined even further. I cannot recall anything from this time. I am told that my entire family was called in to say their goodbyes. Eight days after I lost consciousness I woke up and my vitals began to stabilize.
It took nearly six days from the time I got sick for a diagnosis to be made. It was determined that I had a tear in my vaginal wall from using Super Plus tampons and that allowed the staph to enter my bloodstream.
After 11 days I was able to get up for the first time. I was 23 pounds lighter (87 pounds at 5’2″) and unable to stand on my own. I lost 25% of my hair and I had forgotten whole periods of my life.
Even after recovery I fight the lingering effects of TSS. I have reflux in my right kidney, chronic urinary tract infections, chronic fatigue and if I use tampons I show signs of infection within hours.
I have given birth to two children and both times I had complications due to the after effects of TSS. I have had a recurrence of sepsis from a kidney infection due to the reflux.
I survived even when they told my family I wouldn’t. I survived despite the length of time it took them to realize how sick I was.
I am one of the lucky ones.