The day started out great we all woke up got ready and went to breakfast. Our cabin was known for not putting in too much effort when getting ready. While the other girl’s rooms were filled with fumes of hair spray and their mirrors were prime real estate our routine consisted of rolling out of bed, throwing our hair in a ponytail, and heading out. Sweats were ok, but not because I didn’t care but because the Seniors and Juniors wore them. Don’t get me wrong while I wanted the bow in my hair and wished I had a different lip gloss for every day of the week that just was not the style and habit of my bunk mates.
I was so thrilled to be in the same cabin as Ashley, Sarah and Erica. They were older and so comfortable in their skin. The did not seem to need anyone’s approval and made sure the younger girls knew it too. It was my second visit to camp with them and I was in aww that it was “cool” to be Christian and sing and be loud and proud about it. The girls did their best to make the underclass man feel welcome and accepted. Continually they told us about the shaving cream fight and how wonderful and fun it was. The day was epic at camp and we tried to stay together and have each other’s backs. Being it was held outside and we were in the mountains safety was key and our counselors made it clear we needed to keep an eye out for each other and make sure that everyone stayed safe and no one got hurt.
The afternoon was here and while we thought the fight went off without a hitch I remember seeing Ashley drag and just kind of stumble. I was not the only one who noticed though and just as I was about to tell a counselor they had already gone to check on her. Our counselors decided that our cabin had enough and we should really head in and shower up and wash off as they assumed the shaving cream had started to make Ashley sick.
I walked up to the bathroom with them beaming. In all truth I hated the shaving cream fight but I was hanging out with these girls so I faked it. As we were all washing our faces and waiting for a shower it was hard to ignore the sounds of gagging and vomiting coming from the stall just across the bathroom. All I kept thinking is wow I hope they are ok and wondered if they were having an allergic reaction to shaving cream. As the bathroom started to fill up with tons and tons of girls we all started to whisper in worry about the girl getting sick in the stall. One of my class mates went to look for a counselor. Before she arrived the girl fainted and fell so hard and so fast she broke through the stall door.
I will never forget her lying there. She was so pale and covered in the shaving cream. My reaction was to look away as she had not made it to the shower and was laying there naked. Luckily someone who was much more capable of handling what was going on covered her up until the counselors got there. We were all a flutter wondering who she was and what was wrong. Our counselor wrangled us all together and asked if we were ok and did we need to talk about what we had seen or did we notice anything; had we seen any symptoms they missed? Just then the stretcher walked by with this pale and limp girl on it. I felt so sorry for her and just wondered what was going on as it had all happened so fast.
We were all headed back to our room to say prayers when April looked at me and said they had just confirmed it was Ashley. What?!?! Our Ashley? It did not even look like her. She was so pale and so limp I did not even recognize that this was one of the girls I had been idolizing all week. I broke down along with the other girls in the room. We went about our day as best we could until we got word that she was going to be ok and that they would give us details when she got back.
When Ashley got back we all sat down and they informed us she had suffered from Toxic Shock Syndrome. While I am certainly not a Dr. or going to go into detail of what I think I know or don’t know about TSS. What I do know was that on that day we were educated on the safety of tampons and using them properly.
My mom had never bought me tampons I had actually sneaked them from the bathroom of the older sister of the girl I babysat. I sat there thinking that this could have been me. I mean I read the directions on how to put them in and take them out etc. But I never talked to my mom about them nor did I read about the dangers or warning signs of TSS. I just wanted to be like my friends and I didn’t want the possibility of “accidents” when I already had a hard enough time in school. In a way I was so grateful that this happened because there is no telling what or if could have happened to me had I not been educated on tampons.
When I do use tampons I do my best to pay attention to how long they have been in and I am very aware of how I am feeling that day. As in, if I get a headache I actually take them out or if they are uncomfortable I am sure to switch to pads without even thinking about it. I know there is much more to TSS and I am in no way trying to minimize it but I am not an expert and I do not want to pretend I understand it all even now as an adult. But what I do know is the symptoms can mimic so many other things being that they run the gamut of headaches and dizziness or a rash.
This experience has stayed with me till this day and will forever affect the way that I use feminine hygiene products. It has also made me much more aware of those around me when I see the symptoms or know a friend or family member is having her menstrual cycle. It never ceases to amaze me that what would have been memories of a day filled with shaving cream and laughing turned into a day that forever molded every month of my life since.
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