Tampons are universally hated by women around the world who associate them with the pain and bloating of their monthly periods. But did you know that if accidentally forgotten about, tampons can cause pain and bloating completely unrelated to your period, and can even turn deadly?
This worrying fact is something Emily Pankhurst, a 20-year-old criminology student from Kent, knows all too well. She contracted blood poisoning as a result of Toxic shock syndrome after she left a tampon inserted inside her for 9 days.
Emily had forgotten the tampon was there, which she blames on the stress of her exams, and inserted another one instead. “When I finally realised the tampon was in me and I pulled it out it was pure black. It was obviously coated in bacteria. I wouldn’t have known what it was apart from the string. It was horrible,” she told the Mirror.
“I was feeling really ill by that stage. I was hot and dizzy and felt really strange. I was bleeding more and my mum suggested I feel about and see if there was anything there. I thought it was disgusting to be honest,” she said. “But I also thought once I’d removed it, I would feel better.”
She was finally sent to hospital in an ambulance when her symptoms became more severe. She had started to feel extremely faint, was slurring her words and her skin was mottled.
In hospital, doctors saved her life by administering 12 different types of antibiotics over three days. “My bladder was full – I had two litres of urine in me – but I couldn’t go to the toilet naturally and was given a catheter. I’ve never been in pain like it so was given morphine and doctors said if I had left it any longer I would be dead.”
Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but often fatal infection caused by certain types of bacteria that usually live harmlessly on the nose or mouth. But when these bacteria get into the body through a wound, burn or through the vagina, toxic shock syndrome can occur.
According to the NHS: “The role of tampons in toxic shock syndrome remains unexplained. One theory is that if a tampon is left in your vagina for some time, as is often the case with the more absorbent types of tampons, it can become a breeding ground for the bacteria. Another theory is that the fibres of the tampon may scratch your vagina, allowing the bacteria or the toxins to enter the blood. No evidence has been found to support either theory.”
But Emily’s suffering didn’t end there. After her story was published by several news outlets, she become inundated with Facebook friends requests and tweets from people who were calling her “unhygienic”, “skanky” and “disgusting”.
On a public Facebook post, she wrote: “Wow oh wow. The amount of friend requests I’ve had is unreal […] It’s mine and Connor’s 5 year anniversary so I’m going to stand my ground and try to enjoy my day. Thanks.”
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened – this 15-year-old girl from Michigan nearly died recently after she too had been using a tampon.