TWO sisters almost died within days of each other after using Super Plus tampons, their mother has revealed.
Devine Johnson, 21, spent a week in the intensive care unit after developing fatal sepsis from toxic shock on May 26, 2023.
Just 30 days later, her 17-year-old sister, Jaya, came down with the same infection after using a hygiene product from the same package, said her mother, Javon, 46, of Elkart, Indiana.
“We honestly thought we were going to lose her,” she added.
“They were both really bad. It was a delicate situation because her organs were inflamed and in danger of failing.”
“We were constantly looking at the monitors. My husband and I just stood there in shock.”
“We couldn’t believe this had actually happened to us again. How are the chances?”
“We just got a child out of the intensive care unit who is still recovering and now we have another child who was about to start this process all over again, but she was looking worse.”
“It was a breeze the first time, and now we’re doing it again.”
“My husband and I are grateful because they both survived.”
Sepsis is a response to an infection that affects 245,000 people in the UK each year.
It is caused by the body’s immune system going into overdrive, attacking its own internal organs and sometimes leading to fatal septic shock.
Toxic shock syndrome is a rare infection that can occur when using a tampon or menstrual cup.
Symptoms come on quickly and include high fever, muscle aches, a raised rash that feels like sandpaper, and flu-like symptoms.
Devine had just finished her period when she developed cold-like symptoms before having to go to the emergency room two days later because she could no longer walk without help.
After blood tests revealed Devine was in septic shock, she was treated in intensive care before her GP told her at a follow-up appointment that the infection had been caused by a tampon.
A month later, Jaya traveled to Florida with her family to celebrate Independence Day – but the family assumed Jaya had just suffered heat stroke.
After her condition worsened, Jaya was sent home from the emergency room with ibuprofen for a viral infection, but after she fainted, she soon needed an ambulance to take her back to the hospital.
It was like déjà vu when we received the same diagnosis for Jaya just 30 days later
Javon says Jaya was on her period and had recently used a tampon for the first time – from the same box as Devine a month earlier.
Javon said: “It was a sense of déjà vu when we received the same diagnosis for Jaya just 30 days later.”
“We couldn’t enjoy our vacation. My husband and I were in the hospital 24 hours a day. We couldn’t leave her.”
“They diagnosed Jaya while she was in the hospital because she was on her cycle but didn’t have a tampon in her.
“She had only used tampons for the very first time in the last two days.
“We were on a family vacation in Florida and she just wanted to use it for swimming.
“The doctors said she used the Super Plus absorbency when she didn’t need it.
“They contain a different type of chemical with higher potency and she shouldn’t have used that.
“Devine had always used her. I don’t know if it was this specific package since they used the same box.
“It had more to do with the chemicals than how long they locked her up. Neither of them slept with them.”
What are the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome?
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) can occur quickly.
- a high temperature
- Sore muscles
- a raised rash that feels like sandpaper
- flu-like symptoms
Call 999 or go to A&E if a baby or young child experiences any of these symptoms:
- blue, grey, pale or mottled skin, lips or tongue – if you have brown or black skin this may be easier to see on the palms or soles of your feet
- a rash that won’t go away when you roll a glass over it, just like meningitis
- Difficulty breathing (you may notice grunting noises or the stomach sucking under your chest), shortness of breath, or very rapid breathing
- a weak, high-pitched scream that doesn’t resemble her normal scream
- do not respond as they normally do or have no interest in eating or participating in normal activities
- being sleepier than normal or difficult to wake up
Source: The NHS
Javon says the ordeal has left her daughters weaker and physically slower – and now she no longer allows any of her five daughters to use tampons.
Javon said: “Recovery was slow as they were very weak and it took a lot out of them.”
“Her stamina was slower. It’s been about a year now and they’ve gotten better, but at first they had to take things very slowly.”
“Thank God none of them needed physical therapy, they just move slower.”
“They don’t use tampons anymore. The primary care doctor and the doctor in Florida said they couldn’t use them.”
“They’re not sure why, but they don’t think they can handle the effectiveness of the tampons. He assumes they’ll never make it.”
“I worry that this could happen to my other daughters too. No one can use them, so we don’t keep them in the house.”
She added: “I wish people would pay attention to the different types of tampons.”
“There’s Regular, Super and Super Plus, but if you don’t really need Super Plus, don’t use them.”
“We were told by the infection control doctor in Florida that if you have mild cycles you don’t need Super Plus.”
“I wouldn’t recommend tampons at all at this point. I advocate for it.” [other mothers] Do not use tampons at all as they are not safe.
“I didn’t think people would believe it happened to two of my girls within 30 days of each other in the same year. That was an unrealistic probability.”