My story begins on Sunday October 3, 2004 when I started my period. Everything felt fine. It was just my normal time of the month. Then, on Tuesday October 5th, I began to feel like I was getting sick. I remember complaining to my mom at dinner that my back was beginning to hurt like it does when I get sick. That night, I did not sleep well. When my mom came in to check on me in the morning, I had a high fever and a red rash on my body. We thought it was the flu, so I stayed home from school and rested all day. That afternoon around 3:30 pm, I began vomiting. The vomiting got worse as the night went on, and I soon had diarrhea. I remember that I could not even take a sip of water because my body would react so violently. If I tried to consume anything, I would immediately have to run to my bathroom to throw it up. My mom slept in the room next to mine and took care of me all night. By the time morning came, I was severely dehydrated and suffering from muscle cramps. My mom called the doctors office and told them that she was bringing me in at 9:30 even though we did not have an appointment.
At this point, both my mother and I thought that I had a really bad case of the flu and would just need some medicine and fluids. I wasn’t throwing up as much because I had nothing left in my system to get rid of, so I was feeling a little better. Little did we know things were about to get much worse. Before we left for the doctor’s office, I threw up one more time. After this, I tried to walk to my room to change my tampon but collapsed along the way. My mom helped me up and got me into her car. I do not remember the car ride to the doctor’s office very well. My mom said that during that short ride in the car, I crashed on her. I wasn’t responding to anything she was saying. She was yelling at me trying to get a response out of me, but I never heard her.
When we were at the doctor’s office, she ran inside and got one of the medical assistants to bring out a wheelchair for me. Once inside, they tried to get a blood pressure on me. The woman had to try more then once before she finally got a blood pressure reading that was so low, she immediately called 911. Within minutes, paramedics and firemen were there. I remember getting one IV in my arm before we left the office. I did not even feel it go in. I don’t remember the ambulance ride to the hospital. I remember arriving and getting a second IV in my other arm before I was moved to the Emergency Room at Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Ventura, California. I arrived at the hospital around 10:00 in the morning.
Now that I was at the hospital, things started happening really fast. People kept asking me questions about what was happening. Things were much more serious than my mom and I had anticipated. The medical team did not know what was wrong with me. They just knew that they had a 17 year-old girl who was dying in front of them.
My mom had been in contact with our neighbor throughout the morning. My mom began describing what was happening and how the doctors didn’t even understand what going on. My neighbor told my mom to have the doctor check for menstrual toxic shock syndrome. She told her that it sounded like what her friend’s daughter went through a year before. My mom immediately ran to the doctors and blurted out, “Menstrual toxic shock.” My doctor asked her why she would say that, and she told him that I was on my period and wearing a tampon. The doctor ran into my room and told the nurse to get my tampon out. Next, they inserted a Foley catheter and no urine came out. By this time, I had already had more then one 1,000mL bags of Normal Saline. They knew at this point that my kidneys had shut down. I remember getting my central line put into my neck and my arterial line into my left wrist. My memory of the rest of the day is very choppy. I do remember complaining throughout the day that my feet were hurting. I did not know it then, but the pain was caused by lack of circulation.
I was in and out of it for the rest of the day. I do remember overhearing one of my doctors talking to my mom. I heard him say that they could not treat me because I was too sick. I needed to be transported to another hospital. My mom was given three choices, and she chose to have me go to UCLA Medical Center. This was when I finally realized that I might die, that I may never live past this day. I turned to my stepfather and told him I was scared. He told me that everything was going to be fine. I had to believe him.
I was awake when my lungs began to collapse. I remember feeling like I was having an asthma attack. The nurse that was there began pumping air into an ambu-bag. She was not pumping the bag in correlation to how I was breathing. I tried to sit up and hit her hand away. I thought that if I could just try to breath on my own I could finally catch my breath. One of my doctors then placed his hand on my head and made me lay back down. He told me that he was going to have to put me to sleep. This is the last thing that I remember.
I have been told that the next few hours were very stressful. It was not possible to transport me to UCLA because there was a dense layer of fog covering the hospital. My mom was faced with two options and all of them ended with a most probable death for me. The first option was to keep me at CMH for the night. The doctor’s did not think that I would live through the night unless I made it to UCLA. Her second option was to have me flown to Van Nuys Airport and then be taken by ambulance to UCLA. It was now the start of rush hour and the traffic would have been horrific. I would not have survived the ambulance ride to the hospital from the airport. After some waiting, they found out that the fog had lifted. I was prepped and on my way in a matter of minutes.
While at UCLA, I was on life support and in a drug induced coma for seven days. During this time, I was intubated, receiving nutrition through my central line, and on at least three different medications to keep my blood pressure in the 70’s. My mom was told that they were more than likely going to have to amputate my right foot, some toes on my left foot and some fingers. My mom told them that they could but she was going to rub my extremities to help keep my circulation going until the surgery. Thanks to her and my other family members who rubbed me for three days, I did not have to have anything amputated. I had suffered kidney failure early on as part of the multi organ failure that my body went though. The doctors were about ready to put me on dialysis, when my kidneys began working again.
When I awoke from my 7-day coma, I was told what happened to me. The doctors then told my mom that when I arrive to UCLA, I had a 5% chance of living. They said that they had not seen anyone that sick, pull through and make it. I still feel blessed to be alive.
I feel that it is imperative that women be educated about the use of tampons. My doctors do not feel that I got menstrual toxic shock from leaving a tampon in for too long. They feel that I became sick because I changed my tampons too often. I followed the instructions that came with the tampons, which is why my doctors were perplexed that my life almost came to an end due to normal use of tampons.
The nurses that took care of me inspired me to become a nurse. Currently, I am a Registered Nurse at UCLA. I have met some of the nurses that took care of me, and I have gone back to say hello to some of my doctors. I will forever be grateful for them. If I had not been blessed to have them caring for me, I would not be alive today.