A make-up artist nearly died when she developed toxic shock syndrome from an organic tampon.
Kristina Makris, 33, woke on January 15 with a pounding headache and feeling like she had ‘been hit by a truck’.
After being sent home from a walk-in clinic with ‘flu’, Ms Makris was rushed to Lahey Hospital, Massachusetts, when she started vomiting bile non-stop for 10 minutes.
With ‘her body shutting down, Ms Makris described the half-hour wait to be seen as ‘torture’, with her barely able to walk.
She was then pumped with antibiotics and spent two months recovering in hospital, as well as a further three building up her strength at home.
Ms Makris, who had recently started a health kick of vegan food and working out, is thought to have reacted to the organic tampon due to it being different to what her body was used to.
Kristina Makris nearly died when she developed toxic shock syndrome from an organic tampon. Pictured before the incident on January 15, Ms Makris is thought to have reacted to the sanitary product due to it being different to what her body was used to
Pictured in intensive care at Lahey Hospital, Massachusetts, Ms Makris claims she could ‘feel her body shutting down’ and described the wait for treatment as ‘torture’. After being pumped with antibiotics and having surgery, she spent two months in hospital recovering
‘I could feel my body shutting down, it was my worst nightmare,’ Ms Makris said.
‘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.
‘I still had no idea what was wrong with me and it seemed the doctors weren’t sure either.’
On a health kick, Ms Makris had recently switched to using organic tampons and began feeling ‘under the weather’ two weeks after her period ended.
The Monday before the ordeal she felt extremely nauseous and noticed a swollen lump on her groin .Assuming it was an injury from the gym, Ms Makris 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,’ she said.
‘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.’
Pictured before the ordeal, Ms Makris woke on January 15 with a pounding headache and feeling like she had ‘been hit by a truck’. After being sent home from a walk-in clinic with ‘flu’, her mother Diane rushed to her A&E the next day when she started vomiting bile for 10 minutes
Once discharged, Ms Makris spent three months at home building up her strength. Pictured after, she has been told to never use tampons again and feels ‘trauma’ when she sees ones
Ms Makris’ mother Diane, who she had recently moved back in with, urged her daughter to go to the walk-in clinic, where she was told it was probably just a virus and she would be fine in a few days.
However, Ms Makris’ health went from bad to worse and, the next day, her mother found her shivering, ‘looking like death’ and scratching endlessly at a rash on her inner thigh.
‘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,’ Ms Makris said.
‘Once she had run upstairs and seen me, she looked terrified and immediately took me to the car.’
WHAT IS TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME?
Toxic shock syndrome is a highly dangerous bacterial infection – but it can be misdiagnosed because the symptoms are similar to other illnesses and because it is so rare.
It occurs when usually harmless Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus bacteria, which live on the skin, invade the bloodstream and produce dangerous toxins.
Symptoms usually begin with a sudden high fever, with a temperature above 38.9C/102F.
Within a few hours a sufferer will develop flu-like symptoms including headache, muscle aches, a sore throat and cough.
Nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, feeling faint, dizziness and confusion are also symptoms.
Women are most at risk of getting toxic shock syndrome during menstruation and particularly if they are using tampons, have recently given birth, or are using an internal barrier contraceptive such as a diaphragm.
While tampon boxes advise to change them between four to eight hours, it is common for women to forget and leave them in overnight.
After being given blood-pressure medication and antibiotics at hospital, Ms Makris still felt no better.
‘I begged the nurses for painkillers and even threatened to find some and take them myself,’ she said. ‘I was so angry and terrified, I didn’t know how to react.’
At around 1am the next morning, Ms Makris was moved to intensive care when the rash on her leg was spreading fast and her vital signs – pulse, temperature, blood pressure – were getting worse.
‘By the time I was in the ICU I had lost track of time,’ she said. ‘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.’
Ms Makris was even asked what she would like to doctors to do if she needed resuscitating. ‘I remember holding back the tears and swallowing really hard,’ she said.
‘Hearing those words made me realise that whatever was happening to me was very real.’
When Ms Makris woke a day later, unable to speak because of a breathing tube, she wrote her surgeon a note on a whiteboard, saying: ‘Thank you for saving my life.’
Three days later, while still recovering from hospital, she was told by her surgeon and infectious disease doctor what had caused her ordeal.
‘They told me the rash on my thigh had gone septic and I had suffered from toxic shock,’ Ms Makris said.
‘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.
‘It never once occurred to me that I could have lost my life due to something so simple.’
Pictured before, Ms Makris had recently started a health kick that included eating a vegan diet and working out. She woke in January with a pounding headache and feeling like she had been ‘hit by a truck’. Her mother found her the next day shivering and scratching a rash
Pictured after the ordeal, Ms Makris became depressed during her recovery and described it as ‘a massive come down after the adrenaline needed to stay alive’
Once home, Ms Makris was forced to wear a wound vac – a small hand-held device fitted with a plastic tube – to clear the infection frp, her thigh.
A visiting nurse came every other day to change the sponge, which was placed in the wound and connected to the wound vac to keep it clean.
Describing it as like ‘having a vacuum cleaner stuck to your skin permanently,’ Ms Makris added: ‘I endured the wound vac and other antibiotics for six long weeks and lost 45lbs – 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.
‘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 advised Ms Makris to never use tampons again.
‘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,’ she said.
‘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 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.
‘The main reason women get toxic shock is the fact that they leave tampons in for too long,’ she said.
‘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.’