The Symptoms

I understand that there are many, many women who will not change their use of tampons for convenience, comfort, or their conviction that they will not be the unlucky one to get sick. That’s okay. I send them nothing but love, the prayer that they are correct, and the knowledge of what to look for.

A quick recap. I got my IUD out on a Tuesday, got my period that Thursday and resumed my use of Tampons. That week I worked out 4 times, even trying a new boxing class that Saturday I took the boys to get Easter pictures done with DHM photography.

DHM_1071 IMG_0539

Are they not the cutest? Sunday morning I took the boys to see the movie, Home, with my dad. I want to stress to you that I felt 100% fine. That night we had dinner plans with family friends and on the way there I started feeling a bit achy. I brushed it off. When we got to their house I was so cold to the point where they gave me a sweater. I could barely touch my food. On the way home the shakes and aches worsened. When we arrived I put the boys to bed and went straight to sleep myself. In the matter of a few hours I deteriorated from feeling great to flat in bed.

The next day I could not get out of bed. Marc and his dad were here and they took care of the boys so I could rest. I tried to eat some chicken noodle soup and I only got half way through it. I kept going from hot to cold and I was weak. I never thought to take my temperature. I had diarrhea every time I went to the toilet, not the painful kind, almost like water. (I apologize for the TMI but I want to be completely transparent with you.) My right elbow and left toe were aching. I thought I had the stomach flu and that maybe I was going a little crazy but something was nagging at the back of my mind.

My best friend, Angela, works for Social Security Disability. I actually worked there first and I knew she would be a good fit for the job and convinced her to apply. I resigned one month before Marc and I wed and she has stayed on a climbed the ranks there. A disability analyst reads medical records and works in conjunction with staff doctors to make the allowance/denial decisions on disability claims. Analysts are not doctors but as the saying goes, they play them on tv. I texted Angela and asked her if she had ever had a case of TSS. I told her I had slept with my tampon in and I was nervous. She had not had a case. I convinced myself it was the stomach flu.

I knew that Marc was leaving early Tuesday morning for a practice round at Augusta and that I would be on my own with the boys. I called my parents and asked if my dad could come in the morning to help me get the boys to school. Ollie woke up first at about 7am. I picked him up and thought it was a serious possibility I could drop him. I had to hold him on my left side because my right elbow was now hurting so badly I could hardly extend my arm. I walked with a limp due to the pain in my toe. When we got downstairs I finally took my temperature, it was 102. My dad was my savior that morning when he got there. He took charge of the boys and as soon as they were in school I was back in bed. I was still getting up about every 30 minutes to an hour to use the bathroom. The pain kept increasing my joints. I can’t remember why I had to go downstairs but when I went back up the stairs I was short of breath and then my nose started bleeding. This was when I finally started to take things seriously. I called my parents and asked them if they could keep the boys that night. They told me to go to the doctor but I refused. I was just so tired and wanted to lay down. The thought of sitting in a doctor’s office waiting made me want to cry.

Throughout the day I continued to text Angela with my symptoms. She wanted me to go to the doctor; she thought I had pneumonia. I couldn’t have guessed that she was right. I refused again. I was being a stubborn little shit that day…but by 6pm she was not taking no for an answer. She sent me a message saying that if I was not feeling better in three hours that she would be picking me up. I knew I would not be feeling better and so I finally relented. We went to Patient First because it was the closest and they very rarely had long waits. They told me they didn’t take my insurance and sent me away. It was 6:30pm by this point and I knew the Sentara Urgent Care closed at 7 so we had just enough time to get there. Angela suggested the ER, but again, I refused. I did not want to think I was sick enough to go there.

When I was finally seen, I limped my way to the room and they took my vitals. My temp was still 102, my heart rate was in the 140’s at rest, and my blood pressure was somewhere around 90/60. The nurse stepped back, put on a mask, and told me I was very sick. The doctor came in and I cannot state how very thankful I am that I got Dr. Pierce. She was kind and gentle with me which was the only thing I could have handled at the point. I know that nowadays doctors are not known for amazing bedside manners but she was the queen of them. She ordered a strep test, flu screen, urine and stool samples and a chest x-ray. They hooked me up IV fluids and penicillin. Dr Pierce told me she was going to do everything she could for me there but she would not promise that I would not end up in the emergency room. If she did release me to go home I was not allowed to be alone. I could not take anything to help me sleep. If I worsened I was to go straight to the ER. If I had not felt so awful I might have been terrified.

After several hours there she told me that I was positive for strep throat and a UTI. My stats had not improved at all. I needed to go to the emergency room and she wanted me to go via ambulance. She stressed to me that this was serious. I needed to do this for my family. She thought I was going into septic shock. Even as I was being strapped onto a gurney and transported to the ER I cannot say I was scared. I was just tired and knew that my night was not going to end anytime soon.

I will end this post with one last thought: sometimes you have to fight for your health. The ER was very busy that night, so busy that even though I was brought in by ambulance I still had to wait. When I was seen by the triage nurse he took my vitals, looked me in the eye and said, “So you have a fever, high heart rate, and low blood pressure. I don’t understand why you are here. Your doctor is retarded and I just hate when people can’t do their jobs.”

If I had not been feeling so awful I would have laid into that horrible, horrible man for his use of the r-word. It is the ugliest word and I am quick to correct people when they try to use that word as an insult. I have worked with that population and if anything, it is a compliment. If I had listened to him and gone home I would not be telling you this story right now. Listen to your body, listen to your instincts, and ignore the idiots.

Possible signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include:

  • A sudden high fever
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles
  • Confusion
  • Muscle aches
  • Redness of your eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

My diagnoses upon discharge were:





Reactive Arthritis


I have to be acutely aware of these symptoms and listen to my body as there is between a 5-40% chance of recurrence of TSS.




*** Thank you for all the shares and comments! A few people have asked about alternatives and I actually wrote a post on that here.

2 thoughts on “The Symptoms

  1. Thank you so much for telling your story! You have opened my eyes as I’m sure others too. I also commend you about the R-word, I to correct people and do not like the word. God Bless


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