Samantha’s mother was very worried about her when she got the call at noon. The sixteen year old had asked the school nurse to call her at work to say Sam was heading home early because she didn’t feel well with headache and body aches. As Sam drove home, she started to feel chills and had difficulty focusing on the road because she was dizzy. By the time her mother got home two hours later, Sam was sitting on the bathroom floor throwing up into the waste paper basket after several bouts of diarrhea, and couldn’t stand up without help because she was so lightheaded.
Suspecting some kind of flu or food poisoning, her mom got Sam into bed and called their clinic, was put on hold and waited impatiently for twenty minutes for the consulting nurse to come on the line. She wasn’t sure what she should do to try to stop the vomiting and diarrhea and was concerned when the thermometer had risen to 103.2. Sam looked sicker than she’d ever been before.
After talking to the consulting nurse, she gave Sam a sip of ginger ale, a couple of Tylenol for the fever, yet in fifteen minutes, it all came back up. Now frightened at how pale and sweaty Sam looked she made her decision. She was able to support her daughter enough to walk her out to the car and laid her down in the back seat, and drove straight to the emergency room. By the time they made it to the hospital, Sam was confused and crying, thinking she was back at school to take a test, and babbled nonsense. She had to be lifted out of the car and wheeled into the building by the nurses.
Sam had only been sick for six hours but with one glance the emergency room staff knew they had to work quickly to stabilize her before trying to sort out what had made her go into shock. Her blood pressure was dangerously low, her pulse rate rapid and thready, and she was delirious. Blood work suggested some kind of bacterial infection but there would be no way to know what kind for another twenty four hours when cultures of her blood, urine and spinal fluid grew out in the lab. She had to be sedated to keep her from pulling out her IV lines and was transported up to the Intensive Care Unit, with over six different bags of fluids, antibiotics and other medications to maintain her blood pressure. Everyone who worked with her, including Sam’s mother, was dressed in gowns, masks, and gloves due to the possibility she was contagious with an unknown pathogen.
The nurse in the ICU worked quickly to settle Sam into her room and stopped for a moment, looking closely at Sam’s chest and belly. She turned to Sam’s mother and said,
Did Sam have a rash earlier today?
No, not that I had noticed…
Sam’s skin was now showing a faint red pinpoint rash, everywhere. The nurse immediately called the doctor in, and they stared at the rash. The doctor asked Sam’s mother,
Does your daughter use tampons?
Yes, she does but she’s not on her period now.
The nurse then showed the doctor the old tampon she had removed from Sam while inserting the urinary catheter.
He nodded his head.
I’m afraid it’s toxic shock, this is very serious business. We can only support her with everything we’ve got to try to keep her blood pressure up. We’ll do our best. In another 24 hours we’ll know if she’ll make it or not. This is a time for prayers.
The next day, Sam was sitting up, smiling and laughing at all the IV lines the nurse had to keep straight. She couldn’t remember the previous 24 hours. But that was okay.
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