Surviving Toxic Shock Syndrome
A young woman tells her story and how Cook Children’s saved her
The news of 15-year old Rylie Whitten’s battle with toxic shock syndrome brought back a flood of emotions from a family that faced their own battle with this rare and frightening condition.
KrisDi Ingermann went to Cook Children’s in 2007 close to death from toxic shock. Once she arrived, an Emergency Room physician almost immediately diagnosed her. Over the next six days KrisDi was unconscious in the Cook Children’s pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
“I have never been so scared in my life,” said Theresa Ingermann, KrisDi’s mother. “She had doctors and nurses at her bedside 24/7 until she was out of the woods.”
As they watch the drama of Rylie play out on national television, the Ingermanns hope their story will help others understand not only the difficulty of recovery, but also the stigma attached with toxic shock.
KrisDi’s symptoms began almost immediately after she used a tampon for only the second time in her life. Later the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the new sports tampon brand she used and interviewed the family in hopes of preventing other users from suffering a similar fate.
KrisDi was embarrassed at the situation. She was even concerned because the CDC would report on her illness and that a record would be kept of what she had gone through as a child. More than eight years after she nearly died, KrisDi fights back tears remembering not only her near-death experience but what she dealt with from her peers who didn’t understand her condition.
“At the time, it really messed me up in high school,” KrisDi said. “The first thing people said after I got it was that I was dirty and that I didn’t take care of myself. There are always mean kids in school and they thought it was because I didn’t change my tampon. They didn’t know why I got it, but that was not the reason.”
Little did those kids know the true story. The family had gone to Lake Whitney near Waco, Texas. Theresa had gone to the grocery store. She wasn’t gone a half hour, but when she returned she found her daughter in horrible shape.
KrisDi’s skin was “beat red” and throwing up. They rushed her to a nearby small clinic. The medical team gave her oxygen but it did little to help. KrisDi had a defibrillator for a heart condition and the pacemaker was working against the medication she was given at the time.
After three hours, the medical team at the clinic called an ambulance to rush her to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. KrisDi remember saying she was going to die. Her mom says when her daughter opened her eyes they were a frightening blood-shot color, as if KrisDi was bleeding from them.
The next six days was a battle for KrisDi’s life.
“It kept getting worse and worse, for a while the medical team didn’t know if she would make it,” Theresa said. “Fortunately, KrisDi doesn’t remember any of it. But for me, it was the worst time in my life. I wish I could forget it. It’s hard to even think about it now.”
On the fifth day everything changed for the better. KrisDi opened her eyes and looked around. By the next day she was out of the ICU. She spent another week at Cook Children’s before getting discharged.
After the harsh reaction she received when she returned home, it was almost a year later before KrisDi told anyone that she had toxic shock because of the stigma involved with the condition. The family eventually moved to Kentucky to put that time behind them.
“KrisDi was always a very outgoing person but she just shut down after she got out of the hospital. She didn’t want to see anybody. She felt shamed because of it,” Theresa said. “She received counseling for help. But kids that age are going to talk. It wasn’t the truth the things they said about her. It was horrible. I don’t think people understand she had done everything right and we still almost lost her.”
Today, KrisDi is doing well and is the mom of a 7-month old daughter named Vera. KrisDi suffers from migraines and muscle aches, but she’s not sure if it’s related to toxic shock.
“I hope that more studies are done on toxic shock and I also hope that people take time to learn more about it,” KrisDi said. “I have good hygiene. I did as a young girl too. I had done my research when I had my first period and did everything I was supposed to do. I want people to know that it can happen and I want girls like Rylie to know that it’s not something she should feel guilty about or embarrassed by it. I was embarrassed for a long time because people thought I was dirty.
But I wasn’t dirty and I’m not embarrassed anymore.”