A woman who accidentally left a tampon in for two months was left fighting for her life in hospital after contracting toxic shock syndrome.
Ever since she was a teenager, Kelsey Foster, 29, has been using tampons without any major issues and always thought they were a safe and easy menstrual product.
But the mum-of-one told news.com.au that she really had no idea about the potential dangers that could arise from using tampons, and certainly was not aware about the prevalence of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
Like many tampon users, she had briefly seen the tiny warning written on the small fold-out paper pamphlet that is included in product’s packet, but had not taken much notice.
She never learnt about it at school, but rather it felt more like an “urban legend” – something that people had heard about, but never thought it could ever truly happen to them.
But now the business owner, from Newcastle, New South Wales, is hoping to raise awareness by sharing her story as she continues to battle the insidious infection.
“The main thing I want to get across is that talking about periods should not be shameful,” Kelsey told news.com.au.
“There is a lot of shame and stigma around any menstrual talk and it means that conditions like Toxic Shock Syndrome are simply not discussed.
“It is a deadly condition, and your body can shut down within 24-48 hours. It is no joke.
“We need to remove the shame of talking about periods, tampons and all things menstrual related. Toxic shock is real, it is deadly and it is way more common than we think.”
Kelsey is no stranger to being in hospital, having been in and out for the last few months due to serious gallbladder and liver issues, unrelated to TSS.
She is used to being in pain, as she also suffers from endometriosis – a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus.
So when she began experiencing debilitating cramping, she simply chalked it up to her endometriosis or gallbladder issues, however the truth was far more frightening.
Without any warning, an old, forgotten tampon fell out while she was in the bathroom, terrifying Kelsey.
While she is unsure exactly how long it had been inside her, she believes it must have been at least six weeks to two months, but potentially longer.
“I’ve been in and out of hospital five times in the last two months for severe cramping and pain,” she explained.
“It was discovered I had gallstones and then my gallbladder collapsed. My liver also showed signs of irritation.
“I am waiting for surgery and undergoing tests. One day, I went to the bathroom and I felt something ‘plonk’ out of me.
“I thought it was just another blood clot, which happens to me a lot. But it was an old tampon.
“I was absolutely shocked. I couldn’t believe it.
“I’m not sure how long it had been inside me, but it must have been at least six weeks ago, as that is when my last period was. My menstrual cycle is very irregular.”
Kelsey said she had no idea how she forgot to take the tampon out, but believes it was due to a combination of stress and her disrupted routine that occurred while in hospital.
She kept the tampon and popped it in a zip-lock bag to show her doctors, who ran tests on her, collected bloods, and then confirmed her diagnosis of TSS.
“It was very much a ‘you’re very lucky you’re not dead’ situation,” she revealed.
“I don’t know how I left it inside me. My only thought was perhaps that I put it in while in hospital, and simply forgot about it with all the medication and lack of sleep I had during this process.
“I’m just thankful I found the tampon when I did. Toxic shock can kill you in a matter of days, I was super lucky it hadn’t gotten to that stage.
“The signs are there that it is shutting my organs down, but we are treating it.”
Kelsey is now back home, where she remains under doctor supervision and continues to be treated for the infection.
She is required to take three tablets a day and keep up her fluids.
Kelsey is sharing her story to help raise awareness and urges all women to remain vigilant about their sanitary products, while also educating themselves about TSS.
“I’m getting better and on the road to recovery,” she said.
“But this could have easily taken my life. It has definitely been physically and emotionally difficult to deal with.
“I suggest everyone set reminders if they have to when using these sanitary products. It honestly surprises me that tampons are even legal knowing that they can cause this bacterial infection that is so deadly.
“It’s far more common than we think. I’ve talked to many of my friends who have said they have also forgotten tampons from time to time.
“It’s so important to know that talking about periods and all the things that come with it isn’t a dirty or shameful thing.
“It could save your life, or the life of someone you love.”