Lauren’s Story

A little over a year ago, I was one of the very lucky ones to survive Toxic Shock Syndrome.  It all began on Sunday, June 6, 2010 only a week after returning home from college for the summer.  Being 20 years old at the time, I never imagined myself getting so sick.  In the beginning of my sickness, I thought I had food poisoning or the flu. The symptoms were very similar and I never thought twice about it.  Hours went by and I was only getting worse.  I continued throwing up for about 8 hours and couldn’t keep any liquids down.  I had a fever of 104° and I had trouble walking.  I have always been a very healthy person. I’ve been a competition dancer for 17 years and because of that my body is usually very strong when fighting a sickness. So when I got to the point that I couldn’t stand up or walk, I knew something had to be wrong.

That afternoon, my mom and I decided that I should seek help at the local urgent care in my hometown. It was a Sunday so I was not able to go to my primary care doctor. When I arrived at the urgent care they asked my symptoms and I explained them while also informing them that I was menstruating and using tampons. The doctor told me that I had a high fever (102°), my blood pressure was severely low (71/49), and my heart rate was shockingly high (149).  A normal 20 year old doesn’t have low blood pressure or a high heart rate. The doctor said I was also very dehydrated so he wanted to give me some fluids through an IV.  After two liters of fluid I was told that I was just simply fighting a viral infection similar to the stomach flu.  I was sent home and told to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids and my symptoms should go away in a few days.

I went to bed that night thinking I would be okay by morning.  My fever spiked all night and when I woke up the next morning I felt even sicker.  I stayed in bed because I couldn’t sit up.  I also got horribly dizzy whenever I would try and sit up or stand up. Walking was near impossible.  Because I continued to get worse, my mom took me to my primary care doctor who immediately sent me to the ER.

When I arrived at the ER the nurses and doctors were baffled at my condition.  It had only been 18 hours since first feeling sick.  Because of my low blood pressure and high heart rate, they knew something was seriously wrong. They soon concluded that my oxygen levels were also very low. I was given two IV’s to get as much fluid in me as possible while they did tests to determine my illness.  A faint rash appeared on my body and I also had conjunctivitis. The doctors worked feverishly trying to figure out what was wrong with me.  Every blood test and culture was taken, including a spinal tap to eliminate meningitis. The intensive care unit doctor was called and he inserted a central line in my neck to have the ability to give me more fluids and medications.  I had a total of five IV’s to try and bring up my blood pressure, reduce my heart rate, and fight infection.  I was given the antibiotic Vancomycin through an IV and I was also put on oxygen in order to keep me breathing. That night, still not knowing exactly what was wrong with me, I was transferred to the intensive care unit in critical condition.

Thankfully, I survived the night and the next day an infectious disease specialist was called in to help determine my illness. Once he reviewed my chart and heard my symptoms, he was sure that I had Toxic Shock Syndrome. I was very fortunate to have a great team of doctors and nurses who did all the right things from the time of my arrival in ER, despite not knowing what I had. I was also very fortunate to be young, healthy, and in great shape when I became ill.  I was given intravenous immunoglobulin and my body slowly but surely responded to the Vancomycin antibiotics and blood pressure medications. The diagnosis of my illness was soon confirmed through a vaginal culture that I had the TSS-1 staph infection.

I spent 5 days in ICU and 2 days in the hospital before I was discharged to go home.  The 7 days I spent in the hospital were crucial to saving my life.  Each day was a struggle but giving up was never an option.  I am very grateful to be alive, considering many women die from Toxic Shock Syndrome. Getting to the hospital as soon as possible is crucial to surviving this disease.  As time goes on, the infection becomes more deadly as it can harm all of the major organs including the kidneys, liver, and heart ultimately leading to the body shutting down.  I don’t know if I would have survived this disease had I not gone to the hospital when I did or if the doctors had not worked so hard to determine my illness and try keep my vitals stable.

I went through the anticipated 4 week recovery, but 4 weeks was not near enough time to recover from TSS.  It has taken me over a year to start to feel even close to 100%.  I have experienced many health issues related to my illness that have stayed with me due to the toxic infection my body went through. Recovering from this illness is extremely difficult from my experience so far. I have never felt so weak in my life. I was naïve to the fact that my body cannot always be as strong as I need it to be. I am slowly gaining my strength back and beginning to get back to exercising in order to be able to dance again. I wake up every day thankful to be alive and my heart goes out to those who have lost someone due to Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Comments

  1. Thank goodness you survived. I survived septic shock from CA-MRSA while 30 weeks pregnant – it began in my ankle, which was misdiagnosed as a sprain for a month before I went into shock. We rushed to the hospital when my fever hit 105 and pulse 110+. I went into shock at the hospital a few hours later after being left unattended while waiting for an X-ray of my hip (they thought the sepsis had spread). My husband realized I was not ok, and he and a college classmate who happened to work at the hospital there tracked down an ER doctor – my pulse was 200, my blood pressure 62/17, and my oxygen intake was low. End of life services was called in as the techs rushed to increase my fluid and blood pressure through an arterial line. I was moved to ICU (they almost couldn’t find me a bed – and this is a huge hospital!). Once stable and no longer in shock, they did an emergency joint washout of my ankle and hip. I spent 5 days in the ICU and 5 days in the hospital. I was sent home with a PICC line for 6 weeks of Vancomycin treatment – I was treated for CA-MRSA osteosepsis. People thought I would just be “over it” after that – no, I suffered from postpartum depression and PTSD. While I’m better now, it took about a year before feeling normal again. I’ve lost much flexibility and strength in my ankle which had been built up from years of dancing. My baby is healthy and now, so am I.

  2. Hey Lauren! It’s not me to usually comment on someones blog or on any website really. But I was looking for some more information on TSS because I was writing a paper about my own experience and stumbled across your page. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your story! I had TSS too, about 4-5 years ago when I was 13. It was truly terrifying and I can totally relate to almost all of the things you were feeling. After all of these years I have never really heard any one elses story but after reading yours I don’t feel so alone. It’s comforting, haha. Hope you stay healthy:) Good luck in everything you do. Xx

  3. Hi Louise,
    Thank you for writing. Did you experience TSS? We are on Facebook (www.facebook.com/amyelifritz) and I encourage you to “Like” us and leave a message for Lisa. If you have experienced TSS, I’m certain she would like to talk with you and provide you with information about connecting with others who have had TSS.
    Suzan

css.php