While choosing between pads or tampons during your time of the month may not feel like a life-altering decision for you, for 20-year old, Amy Elifritz, the choice was a matter of life and death.
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a major concern and while contrary to popular belief; it is still common in the United States today. Recent data suggests TSS affects nearly 8,000 people nationwide annually and as many as 1 in 700 women will acquire tampon-related TSS in their lifetime.
The term toxic shock syndrome was coined just before the first major outbreak of cases in the 1980s and it seems to be that the concept is more commonly known among those of our parents’ generation than ours as college students.
What is it? “Toxic Shock Syndrome develops when the common bacteria, Staphylococcus Aureus, produce a toxin which is absorbed into the bloodstream. The toxin rapidly overwhelms the immune system and attacks the major organs, leading to kidney failure, collapse of the lungs and in severe cases, cardiac arrest,” says Philip M. Tierno, Ph.D, Clinical Professor of Microbiology and Pathology at NYU and TSS expert.
Symptoms of TSS may include one or more of the following: sore throat, aching muscles, high temperature (over 102 degrees), vomiting, headache, watery diarrhea, red rash, confusion, dizziness, very low blood pressure.
Amy Elifritz was a beautiful, healthy and smart 20-year old. She lived an average life and loved the company of both her family and friends. She was a victim of TSS. Her symptoms were very mild in the beginning, and started with a simple fever and vomiting. Thinking it was just a touch of the flu, she went about her daily routine, however, as time went on, the manifestation heightened. After two days and no sign of improvement, her mother took her to the local PromptMed clinic.
PromptMed conducted an overall check-up and recorded her very low blood pressure and heart rate high. They recommended she go immediately to the ER for hydration treatment where they also did blood work and decided to keep her overnight because her kidneys were functioning at a mere 25 percent. The next morning, Amy’s condition had worsened still and she had developed fluid in her lungs. By that point, the doctors had no other choice but to sedate her and put her on a ventilator. The following day, Amy’s heart had taken all it could and after the third time it was shocked back into rhythm; her precious body had had enough.
Amy passed away on Sunday June 13, 2010. She was a dear friend of mine and it’s hard to believe she has been gone that long—and even more difficult to believe she’s not still here with us. She had such a wonderful spirit and could put anyone in a good mood with her beautiful smile and happy-go-lucky attitude. She was a little angel.
In the last couple of years, since Amy’s death, her family has been such a blessing, not only to their community of Columbus, Indiana, but their passion for prevention is spreading nation-wide as well. Her mother, Lisa started an organization called You ARE Loved, with the goal to create and spread awareness of toxic shock syndrome in schools across America. The Elifritz’ family has collaborated with local news stations here in Indiana as well as been featured on national programs such as The Doctors to broadcast Amy’s story.
Amy’s death, although tragic, was completely preventable and it’s up to us, and now you (reading this) to begin spreading the word about the dangers of TSS. I encourage you to do your own research… there are plenty of resources available. Now that you’re aware- it’s simply a matter of getting out there and putting those materials to good use.
If you would like more information on TSS or this story, please visit www.you-are-loved.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.”