A 25-year-old mother of three had to be placed in a medically induced coma after what was initially thought to be the flu turned out to a life-threatening case of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), which was caused by a tampon.
Joanna Cartwright of Doncaster in South Yorkshire was slipping in and out of consciousness when she was rushed to the hospital.
So serious was her condition that eight layers of her skin had peeled off, 50 percent of her hair had fallen out, and all of her nails had fallen off. Doctors told her family that her internal organs were beginning to fail and that she was just hours from death.
As her body battled the bacteria that were invading her bloodstream, doctors placed Cartwright in a medically induced coma.
Eight days later, when Cartwright woke up, her memory was blank. She was unable to identify photos of her three young daughters.
“When I woke up from the coma, I didn’t know what was going on – I couldn’t remember anything,” Cartwright said.
Of the photos of her daughters, Cartwright said that “people were pointing at the girls and asking me to name them, but I didn’t know. I knew I recognized them but I just couldn’t place them.”
“It’s very strange to wake up and not know who you are or where you are,” she added.
Cartwright was put in the coma on her 25th birthday, so, when she woke up, she was surrounded by birthday cards.
“A nurse was reading the cards out to me, but I didn’t know any of the names – I didn’t even realize it had been my birthday,” Cartwright went on to say.
Cartwright said that she “ended up discharging myself because I felt so unsure of everything.” Two days later, she called the doctors for a follow-up, at which point they explained to her that a tampon had caused her to suffer from TSS, which had also caused her to suffer meningitis.
About two years have now passed since the incident. Cartwright has re-learned to walk after undergoing intense physiotherapy, but her recovery has been a long and slow process. After the incident, her father moved in with her, since she could no longer look after herself.
Although her memory has started to return, she noted that “even now there are big gaps in my memory.”
“It’s been a really traumatic experience, and I know there are parts of me that will never be the same again,” the now 27-year-old woman said. “But I’m just relieved that I made it through and my girls have still got their mum – I count myself very lucky.”