Woman Almost Killed By Tampon That Caused Toxic Shock Syndrome

A make-up artist who went on a natural health kick has revealed how she could feel her “body shutting down” when she nearly died from toxic shock two weeks after using an organic tampon.

Waking up on 15 January 2018 with a pounding headache, feeling like she had “been hit by a truck,” Kristina Makris, 33, visited a walk-in clinic on the advice of her mum Diane, 63, only to be sent home to rest with suspected flu.

But when Diane, who she had recently moved back in with in Massachusetts, saw her the next day, shivering and “looking like death,” she drove her—by then vomiting bile non-stop into a  trash bag—straight to Lahey Hospital, roughly 10 minutes away.

Kristina being pumped with antibiotics (PA Real Life/Collect)

Kristina described her 30 minute wait in the emergency room as “torture,” adding that, by the time doctors saw her and realized she had very low blood pressure, she could barely walk.

She said:

“I could feel my body shutting down, it was my worst nightmare.”

“Doctors pumped me with four different antibiotics and fluids to raise my blood pressure, making me gain 30lb in fluids, because of the sheer amount they were pumping into me.”

She added:

“I still had no idea what was wrong with me, and it seemed that the doctors weren’t sure either.”

Kristina had recently switched to using organic tampons, but began feeling ‘under the weather’ two weeks after her period ended.

And the Monday before she had been very sick, also noticing she had a swollen lump on her groin.

Kristina is usually a healthy-looking make-up artist (PA Real Life/Collect)

Assuming it was an injury from the gym, Kristina brushed it off.

“I thought I had just pulled a muscle or something, but my body was clearly trying to tell me I had an infection. I was trying to feel better by eating a vegan diet and working out, but nothing was working.”

“Then suddenly, on the morning of January 15, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I woke up with chills, fever and a pounding headache.”

Kristina now that she has recovered (PA Real Life/Collect)

At the walk-in clinic, she was told she was probably suffering from a virus which would be fine within a few days.

However, Kristina’s health went from bad to worse and, the next day, her mum found her shivering in her room, soon after which she started vomiting and scratching endlessly at a strange itchy rash on her inner thigh.

She said:

“I could feel it in my soul that something was terribly wrong. I was so weak I had to text my mum downstairs—I couldn’t even shout for her. Once she had run upstairs and seen me, she looked terrified, and immediately took me to the car.”

Kristina looked dramatically different before she fell ill (PA Real Life/Collect)

After being given the blood pressure medication and antibiotics at hospital in the ER she was still no better, feeling as though her organs were in agony.

She said:

“I begged the nurses for painkillers and even threatened to find some and take them myself.” 

“I was so angry and terrified, I didn’t know how to react.”

At around 1am the next morning Kristina was moved to the ICU, as her condition deteriorated. The rash on her leg was spreading fast and her vital signs were getting worse.

She said:

“By the time I was in the ICU I had lost track of time. I just remember the surgical team running towards me and telling me I had 45 minutes to make a decision about whether or not to have surgery.”

“They gave me the time scale because it was urgent. If I didn’t decide fast it would be too late.”

“I was so confused, I didn’t know what to say, or why I even needed surgery, until I was told I needed the procedure immediately or I would lose my left leg.”

Kristina lost 45 pounds while she was at the hospital (PA Real Life/Collect)

Kristina told them to do whatever they had to when she was asked by the doctors how she would like to be resuscitated if anything went wrong in the surgery room.

She recalled:

“I remember holding back the tears and swallowing really hard.”

“Hearing those words made me realise that whatever was happening to me was very real.”

Kristina’s equipment she had to take home and use for six weeks, including a wound vac and antibiotics (PA Real Life/Collect)

When Kristina woke after surgery a day later, sore and still confused, she instantly saw the surgeon, and, as she couldn’t speak, because of a breathing tube, wrote him a note on a whiteboard, saying, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Her mum and dad, Milton, 66, were also there when she woke up—delighted to see Kristina with her eyes open again.

Three days later, recovering from her operation, she was told by her surgeon and infectious disease doctor what had caused her ordeal.

Kristina before the TSS took control (PA Real Life/Collect)

She said:

“They told me the rash on my thigh had gone septic and I had suffered from toxic shock.”

“I was quizzed about everything I had done in the days leading up to the sudden sickness and we soon realised it was down to the organic tampons I had used.”

“Because they were incredibly dry, as I pulled one out after use, I’d managed to scratch the wall inside my vagina, leaving it open to infection.”

She added:

“It never once occurred to me that I could have lost my life due to something so simple.”

After spending two weeks in hospital, Kristina was discharged, but then spent another three months getting her strength back at home.

She was forced to wear a wound vac—a small hand-held device fitted with a plastic tube, used to clear the infection on her thigh.

Kristina wound fit with a small sponge and wound vac to help fight the infection (PA Real Life/Collect)

A visiting nurse came every other day to change the sponge, which was placed in the wound and connected to the wound vac in order to keep it clean.

Describing it as like “having a vacuum cleaner stuck to your skin permanently,” Kristina added:

“I endured the wound vac and other antibiotics for six long weeks and lost 45lb—that’s more than three stone—in total.”

“I got so depressed during the recovery at home. It was a massive come down after the adrenaline needed  to stay alive.”

Kristina before the TSS took control (PA Real Life/Collect)

She added:

“Meanwhile, all the bile I threw up has ruined my teeth and enamel and I don’t think they’ll ever feel the same again.”

Since the shocking incident, doctors have now advised Kristina to never use tampons again—and, too terrified to anyway, she has moved on to sanitary pads.

She said:

“I hardly knew anything about toxic shock, apart from that when I was 12 and began my period, I was told to never leave a tampon in for too long.”

Kristina before the TSS took control (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“I followed all the rules but this still happened to me. Now I feel trauma when I see a tampon.”

“It’s made me understand that this is a condition that can affect any woman if they’re not careful, and we need to raise awareness.”

Emma Soos, a registered nurse and MD of the Women’s Health Clinic, says that organic or not, all tampons can be dangerous.

Kristina now that she has recovered (PA Real Life/Collect)

She said:

“The main reason women get toxic shock is the fact that they leave tampons in for too long.”

“Organic or not, the risks are the same, but if you have changed the brand of tampon you use, it could cause a reaction if you an unfamiliar to anything different used in that product.”

“In Kristina’s case, it could be down to how absorbent the product was – but we likely cannot pin it to down to one particular cause in this case.”

A version of this article originally appeared on Press Association.