I lost my 21 year old daughter, Fasha “Nikki” to TSS on July 20, 2010. Nikki had been an exceptional athlete despite her 4’10” frame. During high school, Nikki played softball, volleyball, and basketball receiving many district and regional awards including Most Valuable Player in the district and several playoff berths. After graduation, Nikki moved about an hour and a half away to attend college. We saw each other every weekend and spoke on the phone daily. She was in her final year of Dental Hygiene classes.
Nikki was a healthy college student without any problems until about 6 months before her death. She was experiencing back pain, but since it runs in our family we just assumed she had overexerted herself or something. We took her to the doctor where she received some medication for what they thought was a bladder infection. She continued going to the doctor on and off as needed. Her back pain did not seem to be going away, so in May 2010 she began chiropractic treatment to try to alleviate the pain. They had taken x-rays and everything seemed fine. Nikki and her younger sister lived together in an apartment while both attended college. Nikki did not like to complain, so when she was hurting she wouldn’t let anyone really know. Every once in a while, she seemed in pain but she said her back just hurt. I had finally decided that she needed to see a gynocologist. I encouraged her to make an appointment. On Thursday, July 15th, I went to visit her because I was buying a vehicle. Nikki had gone to see a doctor at an Urgent Care Clinic on Tuesday, July 13th. They took blood and gave her a prescription for an antibiotic. Thursday evening, she complained about still being sick, so she decided to come home with us. She needed her Mom to take care of her. Even though Nikki was second to the youngest, she had always needed her momma. Her older sister was also in town so Nikki rode home with her. Nikki seemed to be having flu like symptoms. I just gave her some Nyquil and Dayquil over the next couple of days. On Saturday, she just seemed to be really worse. She was throwing up and becoming weaker. A rash showed up on her face so we assumed she was allergic to the antibiotic prescription. I asked Nikki if I could take her to the doctor and she said no. She just decided to stop taking the prescription. My husband and I had a wedding to attend and I didn’t want to leave her but she insisted that we go. When we got back she said she felt better.
On Sunday, she got up and said she was going back to her apartment. Nikki was a hard worker and she was concerned because she had missed so much work. She drove back, but a few hours later she called and said that something was wrong. She said she couldn’t walk and was really dizzy. Her older sister was shopping there so she went to pick her up and they went to the Urgent Care Clinic that she had gone to earlier in the week. They took her bloodwork and told them to go to the emergency room immediately. Her sisters, Ashley and Shayla took her to the emergency room. My husband and I rushed to the hospital. When we got there, she was talking but her blood pressure was sky high. They gave her medication to lower it. Scans revealed that she had a “foreign object” inside her. The doctor tried to retrieve it and her blood pressure immediately started to drop. We were forced out of the room while they tried to stabilize her. Once stabilized, they immediately took her to surgery to try to remove the object. After surgery, the doctor told us it was an accumulation of tampon fibers at the bottom of her cervix. He told us his part went well, but that she was very sick. They immediately took her to ICU.
As we were talking to another doctor, she crashed. They brought her back, but this was the point where I understood that this was really serious. I guess when you have a child that has never been sick, you think that these people who are trying to tell you how sick she is are crazy!
The next day, Monday, was extremely hard with our only hope being prayer. They took her off of sedation so my husband and I could talk to her and explain what was happening. I cannot explain nor will I ever forget the look of fear that was in her eyes. She was on a ventilator and hooked up to everything. She started dialysis but had to start another dialysis treatment because it didn’t work. By early Tuesday morning, the doctors and nurses were amazed by her progress. Her kidneys were functioning,they had weaned her off of most of the blood pressure meds, and she was stabilized. They were all amazed and overjoyed. They wanted to get her going early so they started her dialysis at 8:00 that morning and we couldn’t see her for 4 hours. At 12, I asked if she was finished and they told me she was almost done. My husband and I finally got to see her at about 1 p.m. There were no visiting hours from 12:00 to 4:00, but they let us go see her and touch her but she was still sedated. We decided to let her rest and went to a room that the hospital had provided for us. I laid down for a little bit and her nurse came in and said things were not going well. After the dialysis, she had become unstable again.
Honestly, I thought that she would be okay. We had what seemed like the entire world praying for her. The waiting room was completely full of family and friends. I went to her room and just held her hand, prayed, and begged her to fight. I just stroked her hand and continued to talk to her telling her how much everyone loved her and how her friends were there. As the hours passed, she continued to get worse. I would switch with my husband and our other children and family letting them come in to see her for a few minutes but just couldn’t take myself away from her for long. As evening approached, she was getting far worse. I knew what was coming. I knew she was going to code, but I thought they would get her back and we’d start another good day on Wednesday. I knew this was going to be a long road to recovery and I was ready. The nurse told me to scream at her and get her mad but I couldn’t think of one thing that ever made Nikki mad. She just smiled and laughed all the time. I just continued to beg her to fight, fight, fight. Her oxygen levels had been low for most of the day and I knew some damage had probably occured. As her blood pressure dropped to 80, I asked Nikki what she wanted me to do. I told her that I would take her home and take care of her for the rest of my life if she wanted me to or that I would let her go and let God decide. A very good friend of hers came into the room. He wasn’t supposed to be there but he asked if we could say The Lord’s Prayer together, so we did and he left. When her pressure reached 60, I told God it was in his hands. I was very upset because I had been asking someone to go get my husband because I wasn’t going to leave her. Moments later, she coded. I remember moving a chair so they could get the crash cart in. I stepped out of the room and my children, husband, and daughters-in-law were there. We huddled together praying and begging for her to come back. I knew it was taking longer this time. We watched while they worked on her.
I will never forget the nurse at the end of her bed looking over to us and shaking her head. My life was over. My baby was gone. She had suffered terribly due to the production of a man made product, the desire for profit instead of safety. My theory is that Nikki’s petite size contributed to her death. The tampon fibers accumulated at the bottom of her cervix. NOWHERE on the tampon packaging does it state that someone of petite size should not use tampons. What is really frustrating is that Nikki only used tampons when she was swimming. She was not a regular user of tampons.
We have begun to recover from our loss, but our lives will never be the same. The only way I can get through the day is by knowing through my faith that we will be reunited with her someday. I celebrate her life through memories and reminding the world how wonderful she was remembering how she lit up the lives of everyone she knew with her smile and laughter. Nikki was an outgoing, responsible, amazing person and is missed every day. Nearly 500 friends and family attended her funeral, showing how invaluable she was to everyone.
I live each day wishing that I had known the warning signs of TSS. I live each day wishing that the doctors who first saw her the few days before had not tried to shuffle her through but taken the time to look at her bloodwork and helped her. I live each day wishing I had taken her to the emergency room myself. I live each day wishing I could see that beautiful smile and hear that beautiful laugh. I live each day with the regrets that as her mother I should have done more.
I hope through this forum we are able to educate young women, men, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, grandmothers, and grandfathers about the warning signs of TSS so that no one has to suffer the loss of another child. Please forward this message to everyone you know so that they can be educated about the warning signs of TSS. You could save someone’s life.
If you or a loved one has suffered from tampon related TSS, we would like to hear from you. Please contact us here.