Model Lauren Wasser’s life changed at the age of 24 when a life-threatening condition – caused by a tampon – took her right leg and the toes of her left foot.
Five years later, the fashion model is still suffering the same infection, known as Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is caused by toxins released by bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or Streptococcus pyogenes (strep). After enduring months of excruciating pain, the now 29-year-old had her second leg amputated on Thursday.
“Life is about to be so different, again,” Wasser posted on Instagram days before the surgery. “I’m in great spirits though and ready for my next chapter.”
Wasser’s partner, photographer Jennifer Rovero, kept fans updated throughout the process, posting updates before and after the procedure.
“She’s in recovery! She’s out,” Rovero posted, along with a video of the hospital’s operating board Thursday afternoon. “Doctor called and said everything went well.”
Wasser has been vocal about her experience over the years in hopes of warning other women about the risks associated with using tampons.
“Toxic Shock Syndrome cost me my leg, but, years later, I have since dedicated myself to raising awareness about TSS prevention,” Wasser wrote in an essay for InStyle in November. “I am comfortable in my new role as an advocate against an affliction that affects thousands.”
TSS has primarily been linked to menstruating women who use super-absorbent tampons. However, the infection can affect people of all ages, including men, children and postmenopausal women.
"About half the cases of toxic shock syndrome associated with Staphylococci bacteria occur in women of menstruating age; the rest occur in older women, men and children," according to the Mayo Clinic.
When Wasser was hospitalized for the infection in 2012, doctors recommended amputating both legs, but the model refused. She fought to keep what remained of her left leg.
"My heel on my left side was severely damaged, and so were all five toes. Doctors said there was a 50/50 chance of saving my left foot," Wasser told InStyle. "The surgeons recommended amputating both legs at that time, but I decided to fight and save my left leg."
For the past few months, Wasser said pain caused by the infection made it too unbearable to walk. She knew it was only a matter of time until she lost her other leg.
“I’m in daily excruciating pain. I have a golden leg that I am completely proud of, but my left foot that has an open ulcer, no heel, and no toes,” Wasser described.
While Wasser anticipates a long, painful recovery, she's hopeful for the future.
On Sunday, she shared a post-operation photo, posing with Paralympic snowboarder and double amputee Amy Purdy.
"Thank you so much for stopping by it really meant the world,” Wasser wrote. “Thank you for showing me that life is only going to get better and that I have so much life to live.”