A South Surrey woman who ended up in the ICU with a potentially deadly infection is sharing her story in the hopes she can help others can escape her fate, or worse.
Kimberly Morrow thought she had come down with the flu on Dec. 18, but as she’d later find out, she had toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a sickness which “has been linked to tampon use by women” according to HealthLinkBC.
“If I would have just stayed in bed, that’s where it can become deadly,” said Morrow. “I don’t think people know the symptoms, and that’s likely how a lot of fatalities happen. People thinking they need to sleep it off, and they just don’t wake up.”
It’s an illness that killed a Courtenay girl last year: 16-year-old Sara Manitoski was found dead on March 15 during a school camping trip and the BC Coroners Service later determined she died of TSS.
HealthLinkBC describes TSS as a “rare but serious illness that can often be life-threatening,” and says it “develops suddenly after certain types of bacteria enter the bloodstream and produce toxins (poisons). It can quickly affect several different organs including your liver, lungs and kidneys.” According to HealthLinkBC, half of TSS cases are linked to menstruation, although it also occurs in children and men.
Morrow said she considers herself “blessed” to be alive and has shared her story on Facebook, which has been shared more than 2,400 times as of Jan. 8.
“I just feel like because I’ve survived when so many people don’t, it’s almost like a moral obligation for me to get the word out, spread the awareness,” the 28-year-old told the Now-Leader on Jan. 7, when she was still recovering at home from the physical affects of TSS.
“And also to encourage people to listen to their bodies and trust intuition when you feel like something isn’t right,” Morrow added. “And to think about choosing more natural and sustainable options.”
“It’s all about facilitating an environment for the bacteria to grow,” she said of TSS. “When you put something up there and the air is blocked, it’s a bad idea. Generally, putting anything foreign in your body is.”
Morrow said what scares her most about the ordeal is how quickly TSS came on — and how she had attributed the symptoms to a flu.
Chills. Fever. Dizziness. Fatigue. A high heart rate.
Eventually, she couldn’t even stand and decided to go to bed to try to sleep it off.
“I thought, ‘Getting rest is the best way to recover.’ All through the night, I must have been up every half hour. It was very intense. I was drinking litres and litres of water,” she said.
Thankfully, Morrow did wake the next morning. Her symptoms had worsened overnight, as had a rash.
Shortly after arriving at Peace Arch Hospital on Dec. 19, Morrow said she landed in the ICU.
“I was barely conscious,” Morrow recalled. “I was right away taken for blood tests, and ECG…. They were really fast-acting and quite aggressive about treating me. It all happened very fast.”
She described being hooked up to IVs constantly, receiving multiple heavy antibiotics, and having constant checks on her vitals. Morrow said she was also given minerals, such as potassium and calcium, as the infection had depleted those in her system.
She praised the emergency room doctors and a specialist she saw, as well as several nurses in the ICU, and the “amazing” care she received.
Morrow said she’s yet to return to work – ironically, she is in the wellness field.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” she explained. Morrow operates a pair of wellness companies: Kimberly Lauren Reiki and Crystal Theory Jewelry. She said she also works at Barre Fitness in South Surrey and teaches meditation and reiki classes downtown.
Morrow said she hopes to get back to work as quickly as possible.
“Once your body goes through this much trauma you don’t realize how much recovery time you need. You want to hop back into everything and pretend it didn’t happen but your body three steps behind your mental state,” she laughed. “My main message is just to be aware of the symptoms and the risks with toxic shock syndrome but also to encourage women to listen to their bodies. And, to inspire women to maybe think about choosing more natural, sustainable options for feminine hygiene products.”
Fraser Health Authority says it is aware of a case that lines up with the details of Morrow’s. The health authority says there have been five cases of TSS in the region since April 1, 2016.