Woman warns of symptoms after misdiagnosis of Toxic Shock Syndrome

Her boyfriend at the time rushed her to the A&E department, where Brooke was drifting in and out of consciousness before being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

A young woman has told how she nearly died when she developed toxic shock syndrome while using tampons – after doctors initially dismissed her flu-like symptoms as signs of a throat infection.

Waitress Brooke Wilson, 23, from South Lyon in Michigan, started feeling ill while on her period with a sore, swollen throat, and assumed she was coming down with a cold. She removed her tampon that day, but her symptoms worsened over night, and she went to the doctor after waking with a burning fever.

Brooke says she was sent home by doctors who told her it was likely to be strep throat, but she later developed diarrhoea and began vomiting, until she was too weak to leave her bed. It was two days – during which doctors worked furiously to hydrate Brooke – before she was ultimately diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome in a case that left her ‘knocking at death’s door’.

After a six-day battle Brooke made a full recovery, and four years on she has decided to share her experience to make other women aware of the symptoms.

Brooke Wilson, 23, from Michigan, nearly died after contracting toxic shock syndrome from a tampon after doctors initially dismissed her flu-like symptoms for strep throat (seen this year, after recovering)

The young waitress was then rushed to hospital again and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit as her body began to fail (seen in hospital in 2014)

Recalling her initial symptoms, Brooke said: ‘When I started to feel sick, I thought I was coming down with a regular cold again because my throat was hurting and swelling.

‘Over time, it became difficult to eat and I woke up the next morning twitching and sweating with a fever of 105.9. I did everything possible to bring it down. Tylenol, a cold shower, water, cold towel on my head and nothing worked so we decided to go to hospital. They said I had strep throat and sent me home immediately.

‘I went back home and laid in bed all day. My boyfriend at the time left for work that day at 10am and came home at 9pm and I didn’t eat that whole time because I was so weak. I began having diarrhoea, I would crawl to the bathroom because of my muscle fatigue.

‘I had to use every last ounce of energy to pull myself up onto the toilet because I couldn’t walk anymore. When you get TSS you get confusion, so obviously that didn’t click as a red flag in my mind.’

Her then boyfriend decided to take Brooke back to the hospital after seeing Brooke deteriorating.

Brooke said: ‘My boyfriend got home and asked if I even turned the TV on all day and I said I couldn’t do it, it was too hard to even lift up my arms. He made me soup and a Gatorade, and I instantly threw it up and started shaking.

‘We decided to go to the emergency room. He drove me there going ninety-miles-per-hour because I couldn’t keep my head up.

‘As I sat in my wheel chair, pale skin and eyes rolling back, I could feel myself fading in and out and told my boyfriend we have to go back there now or we’re leaving. I’m dying. Then the lady up front picked me out of everyone and said “bring her back now” they checked my vitals and everything was gradually failing.

After a six day battle, which saw Brooke close to death, she made a full recovery, and has now shared her experience with other women to warn them against the symptoms (seen in 2014)

‘The doctors were trying so hard to find out what was wrong with me, but they continued to give me antibiotics and bags of fluid because I had severe dehydration. It took about two days in the ICU for me to get diagnosed because one day, my ICU nurse saw the ‘sun burn’ symptom on my private area while working and said that she had seen it before.

‘She’d been an ICU nurse for twenty-five-years and remembered back in the ’80s when toxic shock syndrome was high back then. She immediately told someone. They all came to see, and they finally found out what was wrong because no one ever saw this type of situation.’

TSS is caused by either staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria which usually live harmlessly on the skin, nose and mouth but if they get deeper into the body can release harmful toxins that damage tissue and stop organs from working.

She made a full recovery, and has now shared her experience with other women to warn them against the symptoms

Traumatised Brooke refuses to wear tampons anymore and only uses pads now

Using tampons, especially if they are left in for longer than recommended or using ‘super absorbent’ ones can raise the risk of contracting TSS. Brooke’s horrific ordeal happened in July 2014 and she was in hospital for six days. She only now feels ready to share her story to raise awareness for the potentially fatal condition.

She discussed her fear of leaving hospital and the paranoia she felt when she came on her period.

‘Recovery was scary because I was scared to be back home wondering if it was going to flare up again. I decided to stay at my mum’s for the week so she could keep an eye on me and help me take the different medications I needed. I required tons of rest and I had to take a month off of work,’ said Brooke.

Brooke (seen making the most of life now) told how it took doctors days to correctly diagnose her

She told how her symptoms were ‘flu-like’ and included a sore throat, weak limbs and vomiting

‘I was traumatised. I had nightmares and was always paranoid when having my monthly cycle. Even though I can’t wear tampons anymore just pads. It took me years to reach a comfortable state to tell my story and not get upset.

‘I actually enjoy now telling my story to help raise awareness to other women. Today, I feel extremely grateful knowing how healthy I am even after a condition like that.

‘I feel this happened to me to be a walking miracle to inform other women of this deadly, rare situation. This is something women put themselves at risk every single month and a simple knowledge of it can save your life.

‘They told my mom that I was knocking at death’s door and to be prepared for the worst. But I won this battle and want other women to win it as well.

Her near-death experience has taught her the importance to live every day to the full, she urged other women to get to know their bodies


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.

‘I raise awareness for TSS to women around me but a goal of mine would be to raise a bigger awareness around the world.’

Brooke is a keen explorer, sharing her travels on social media.

Her near-death experience has taught her the importance to live every day to the full, she urged other women to get to know their bodies, so they can pick up on the symptoms and learn what is and isn’t normal for them.

‘Be aware of the symptoms and listen to your body. Your body is always telling you something so get to know it. Understanding these symptoms and being tampon smart is a must for women,’ she said.

‘My mum warned me of TSS and the information on the side of the box that none of us cares to notice but I was the typical girl who thought that it wouldn’t happen to me.

‘I meet women all the time including my own friends that have the same reaction when I tell them I got TSS – they can’t believe that it actually happens.

‘I almost lost my life so I use that as an eye opener. I have been forever grateful since then for my health. Since then, I’ve been enjoying and living my life to the fullest because I was given a second chance.’

Brooke is a keen explorer and her near-death experience has taught her the importance to live every day to the full

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