Emily Pankhurst is alive today thanks to her mother's sage advice and a round of antibiotics after she discovered that her fatigue, headaches, and fevers weren't mere stress during final exams but the result of leaving a tampon in for nine days. A month later, as she is rebuilding the strength to walk again at her home in the UK, the criminology student is pushing her embarrassment aside in the hopes that her story will inform other young women about toxic shock syndrome and how important it is to be careful with tampons, reports Kent Online. "I was very lucky my mum saw my symptoms as abnormal as the doctors said if I had gone to bed that night I wouldn’t have woken up the next day," says the 20-year-old, who came close to dying of sepsis.
It took a week of symptoms before Pankhurst finally saw a doctor after noticing abnormal discharge, but she was sent home without an internal examination and told to swab herself. Her mother, however, suggested she take a shower and examine herself to be sure she hadn't forgotten a tampon. Sure enough, Pankhurst says, "To my shock, she was right. I found a nasty, smelly, foul tampon that had gotten so far up I couldn’t feel a thing." She tells the Mirror the tampon was "pure black" and "coated in bacteria." Within an hour she was cold, confused, slurring her speech, and unable to open her eyes, and she was rushed to the hospital. Doctors were relieved to discover the raging infection hadn't yet reached her vital organs, and saved her life. (This Michigan teen suffered the worst case of toxic shock system her doctors had ever seen.)