- Joanna Cartwright woke from a coma unable to recognise her family
- She had suffered toxic shock syndrome caused by a tampon
- 27-year-old was placed on life support as her body fought off the poison
- TSS is rare but life-threatening and caused when bacteria invades the body
- Ms Cartwright’s internal organs began shutting down, eight layers of skin peeled off and she lost 50% of her hair and all her nails
- She has made a full recovery, having relearned how to walk
- ‘I just couldn’t believe it,’ she said. ‘I hadn’t done anything different from what I usually do every other month’
A mother-of-three was unable to recognise her daughters after being placed in a coma as her body fought toxic shock syndrome, caused by a tampon.
Joanna Cartwright, from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, thought she was suffering a bout of flu when she fell ill.
But three days later, slipping in and out of consciousness, she was rushed to hospital.
There doctors told her family she was just hours from death, her internal organs were beginning to fail.
Eight layers of her skin had peeled off, her hands had swollen, she had lost 50 per cent of her hair and all her nails had fallen off.
Doctors placed the 27-year-old in a medically induced coma as her body battled the bacteria invading her bloodstream.
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Joanna Cartwright, 27, from Doncaster, was placed in a medically induced coma after she was rushed to hospital suffering toxic shock syndrome from a tampon. The condition caused her internal organs to begin shutting down, eight layers of skin to peel off and 50 per cent of her hair to fall out
When she woke eight days later medics explained the TSS, which had been caused by a tampon, had caused Ms Cartwright to suffer meningitis as well.
Looking at pictures of her daughters, Lacey, eight, Nicole, seven and three-year-old Scarlett-Rose, Ms Cartwright drew a blank.
But the mother-of-three has now overcome her ordeal, re-learning to walk after intense physiotherapy.
She said: ‘When I woke up from the coma I didn’t know what was going on – I couldn’t remember anything.
‘Someone had put pictures up of my children but I didn’t know who they were.
‘People were pointing at the girls and asking me to name them, but I didn’t know.
‘I knew I recognised them but I just couldn’t place them.
‘I was put in the coma on my 25th birthday so when I woke up I was surrounded by birthday cards.
‘A nurse was reading the cards out to me but I didn’t know any of the names – I didn’t even realise it had been my birthday.
‘All I really knew was that I was very poorly, and I thought I was going to die.’
Ms Cartwright first fell ill with what she thought was flu.
But when she started struggling to breathe and drifted in and out of consciousness, her mother and partner, Steven, 28, rushed her to hospital.
They were told by medics the then 24-year-old was just hours from death.
When she woke after eight days in a coma, Ms Cartwright was unable to recognise her three daughters Lacey, eight, Nicole, seven and three-year-old Scarlett-Rose, pictured with their mother, left
RARE BUT OFTEN MISSED: WHAT IS TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME?
Toxic shock syndrome is a highly dangerous bacterial infection – but it can be misdiagnosed, because the symptoms are the same as other illnesses and because it is so rare.
It occurs when usually harmless Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus bacteria, which live on the skin, invade the bloodstream and produce dangerous toxins.
Symptoms usually begin with a sudden high fever, with a temperature above 38.9C/102F.
Within a few hours a sufferer will develop flu-like symptoms including headache, muscle aches, a sore throat and cough.
Nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, feeling faint, dizziness and confusion are also symptoms.
A widespread sunburn-like rash can also appear, while the whites of the eyes, lips and tongue can appear more red than usual.
After the rash appears, it is common for the skin to begin to shed in large sheets, especially from the hands and soles of the feet.
Women are most at risk of getting toxic shock syndrome during menstruation and particularly if they are using tampons, have recently given birth, or are using an internal barrier contraceptive such as a diaphragm.
‘The last thing I remember is being in the car racing towards the hospital,’ Ms Cartwright said.
‘My internal organs were shutting down so I was put on life support, and put into a medically induced coma.
‘My hands had swollen, about eight layers of skin peeled of, I lost about 50 per cent of my hair, and all my nails fell off – I must have looked horrendous.’
Eight days later, when she woke from her coma, Ms Cartwright’s memory was blank.
Doctors told her the TSS, which had been caused by a tampon, had caused her to suffer meningitis.
She said: ‘It’s very strange to wake up and not know who you are or where you are.
‘I tried to speak but by the time I’d got to the end of a sentence I couldn’t remember why I’d started it.
‘Even now people will mention things to me – something I’ve done, or somewhere I went – and I don’t know what they’re talking about.
‘I was so confused and disorientated – I even thought my brother was my boyfriend.
‘I ended up discharging myself because I felt so unsure of everything.
‘It wasn’t until two days later when I called the doctors for a follow up that they told me I had suffered from toxic shock syndrome along with meningococcal septicaemia.
Ms Cartwright’s memory slowly began to return, and she had to relearn how to walk during intense physiotherapy appointments. Pictured right, her eldest daughters Lacey and Nicole
‘I just couldn’t believe it – I hadn’t done anything different from what I usually do every other month.’
Ms Cartwright’s recovery has been a long and slow process.
Gradually her memory started to return, but today she still struggles to recall some parts of her past.
She said: ‘Even now there are big gaps in my memory.
‘I don’t remember Scarlett’s first steps, or a lot of her milestones such as talking and weaning.
‘It makes me sad as they are big parts of her life that I now feel like I’ve missed out on.
‘I can look through photo albums and see pictures of holidays that I have no idea even happened.
‘It’s very weird to think that I’ve had all these experiences that I can’t remember.’
She added: ‘Getting over everything was very difficult, and it’s taken about two years altogether.
‘My Dad had to move in with me to look after me as I couldn’t look after myself.
‘I had to have intense physio as I had to learn to walk again, and it took ages for my hair to grow back.
‘It’s been a really traumatic experience and I know there are parts of me that will never be the same again.
‘But I’m just relieved that I made it through and my girls have still got their mum – I count myself very lucky.’