She was perfectly healthy just over a week ago. Then everything changed. 

By Samantha Lauriello
December 21, 2018

Just over a week ago, Anna Norquist was a healthy 30-year-old woman with a passion for gymnastics. On December 14, everything changed. She developed toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare, potentially lethal condition that has resulted in multiple limb amputations. Now, Norquist is struggling to stay alive.

It all started when Norquist went to Chicago last weekend to see a concert, her father told Fox 59, a TV news station based in Indianapolis. After returning home on Sunday, “she didn’t feel well and thought she was getting flu-like symptoms. Then, by Monday, she was fighting for her life,” Gordon Norquist said.

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Doctors aren’t completely sure how Norquist contracted the condition, but they believe it's a secondary complication of a primary infection with Streptococcus, the same type of bacteria that can cause strep throat, her family told Fox 59.

As TSS took hold, the bacteria spread rapidly through Norquist’s body, releasing toxins that resulted in the amputation of both her right arm and her left leg. When she’s stable enough, doctors are also planning to amputate her left hand. She’s already undergone 10 surgeries and will likely need more.

According to Mayo Clinic, TSS is a life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections. Risk factors include recent surgery and open wounds. You’ve probably heard that TSS can develop if you leave in your tampon for too long. While this is also a risk factor, keep in mind that TSS is a very rare condition and less than half of all cases every year are associated with tampon use, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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Symptoms of TSS include sudden fever, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, muscle aches, and headaches. Another sign of TSS is a rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on the palms and soles If you experience these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately, especially if you already have a wound or infection.

TSS is very serious, and Norquist isn’t the first person to lose her limbs to the condition. In 2012, model Lauren Wasser lost part of her right leg in a battle with TSS stemming from tampon use. Wasser survived, but even after she beat the infection, she still lived with excruciating pain. In January 2018, about six years after she originally contracted TSS, she had her other leg amputated. 

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Wasser has been able to return to modeling, and a return to her regular life is what Norquist’s parents hope will happen for their daughter. “She’s a beautiful person, she has a fighting spirit,” Gordon Norquist explained to Fox 59. “None of the doctors expected her to survive and she is remarkable.”

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