It is believed most international models’ careers are over by the time they are 21. However, one 28-year-old model is making waves after her New York Fashion Week debut. Lauren Wasser — who spent four years recuperating from toxic shock syndrome — stormed the ramp in a glow-in-the-dark structured dress, and a prosthetic leg.
Just when her career was looking up, Lauren came down with flu-like symptoms during a party at the age of 24. She retreated home and decided to sleep off the fever. Her fever peaked 107° and she didn’t wake up for days, until the police came knocking for a welfare check. “I hadn’t been able to take my dog out, so there was piss and shit everywhere,” she told Vice.com. The fever refused to recede and her organs had begun failing, but the doctors still couldn’t pinpoint what could be wrong. Ultimately, an infection specialist diagnosed her with toxic shock syndrome upon enquiring if she was wearing a tampon. But, the complications that had arisen by then made it necessary to have her right leg amputated below the knee.
Recovery was long, slow and painful for Lauren. “It’s the most excruciating pain I’ve ever…I don’t know how to describe it to you. I was this girl—and then all of a sudden I don’t have a leg, I’m in a wheelchair, I have half a foot, I can’t even walk to the bathroom. I’m in a bed, I can’t move, and I felt like those four walls were my prison,” she said. However, she did manage to bounce back to normalcy with help from her family and girlfriend — photographer Jennifer Rovero.
Rovero took hundreds of pictures of Wasser as a therapeutic attempt. On their photoshoots, they would ask girls lingering around if they knew about toxic shock syndrome — most said no. Before long, offers started pouring in again for Wasser — whose Instagram account goes by the name of The Impossible Muse — after the photographs surfaced online.
Wasser’s family is involved in a lawsuit against Kotex — the tampon brand Wasser was found wearing during her diagnosis.