Lauren Wasser: Model loses both legs - her golden prostheses make her world famous

On October 3, 2012, Lauren Wasser's life changed forever.

Lauren Wasser: Model loses both legs - her golden prostheses make her world famous

On October 3, 2012, Lauren Wasser's life changed forever. The then 24-year-old fell ill with toxic shock syndrome (TSS), triggered by a tampon. The bacterial infection spreads at breakneck speed in her body, her organs threatened to fail, and the doctors put the model in an artificial coma. In no time at all, Wasser suffers two heart attacks and kidney failure. The doctors estimate their chances of survival at just one percent. Due to gangrene, her right lower leg was amputated, followed a few years later by her left lower leg.

A world collapses for water. At the peak of her life, she falls into a pit of self-doubt, depression, and suicidal thoughts. "When I woke up from the induced coma in excruciating pain, I no longer recognized myself. My entire identity had been taken from me, my beauty and my body, which I thought at the time made me what I was ", recalls the model.

Eleven years later, Wasser reveals in an essay how she overcame the hardest time of her life – and found herself again. She shares her story from the moment she was found unconscious at home and taken to a hospital. The moment she finally wakes up from her coma, she begins to realize that nothing in her life will ever be the same again.

Water slips into a deep depression, contemplates suicide. "I thought that I would never be loved again, I thought I would not be wanted anymore - and I was sure that the fashion world would not accept me anymore," she says.

Wasser grew up in California alongside iconic models like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. Her parents were models themselves, and Wasser made her first appearance in Italian Vogue when she was two months old. With her amputation, the passionate basketball player couldn't think of doing sports or modelling. "I sat on a chair in the shower and yelled at God, I asked myself how it could have happened," says Wasser. The model is about to give up. But she makes the jump. The love for her then 13-year-old brother - and the desperate belief in herself and a better future save her life.

"I had to force myself to dig deep to discover that beauty isn't just about the outside, it's about the way we affect others and the world," says the model. Through this pronounced self-awareness, Wasser begins to accept her fate and to take it into her own hands. She knows: her supposed weakness has to become her strength - and she turns her prostheses into her trademark.

"I've always loved gold, so I decided to embellish my legs, consciously create something that people would look at and be mesmerized by. The result, I think, is pretty close to art," Wasser writes about their new prostheses, which have since replaced the standard medical model. And the fashion world sees it that way too. The now 35-year-old is being booked again, walking the catwalks of designers such as Louis Vuitton or Dolce as the "girl with the golden legs".

Water has now become a symbol of self-love, self-acceptance and diversity. "I think we all grew up seeing only this one, idealistic side of beauty. Especially in the fashion world. We have to deal more and more with unrealistic ideals of beauty that we see on Instagram, for example," says the icon in an interview with "Vogue" and further: "We are all unique and special in our own way. To highlight and celebrate that and really show what we are made of, whatever that may be, is very strong."

She recently presented Louis Vuitton's spring collection "like a knight in shining armor" at a fashion show in San Diego. She recalls the moment with pride: "As the sun set behind the beautiful, brutalist Salk Institute and cast long shadows on the concrete catwalk, I stepped out in a floor-length silver coat - my legs shimmered golden like the evening light below metallic shorts - and pointed the way for the models behind me."

Water has found its way back to itself. "I'm (...) like everyone else. I can wear anything; I can do anything. The one difference? My legs are made of gold. It's a belief that touches every aspect of my life - as a lesbian woman I think that all people deserve to have someone who suits them, who makes them feel special and loved. We are all human and we should be accepted by everyone for who we are," she concludes her essay.

In addition to water's goal of being a role model for self-love and self-efficacy, the model wants to further educate on the dangers of TSS. The multi-organ disease caused by germs manifests itself at the beginning with symptoms such as high fever, skin rash or vomiting, worsens at an unstoppable pace and, in the worst case, leads to organ failure and death. Although the disease is rare with a probability of 1 in 200,000, it is usually fatal. "We women simply need more education about TSS," demands Wasser.

The model also blames tampon manufacturers for the disease. The use of chemicals or residues of these in the hygiene products increase the risk of developing TSS. Tampons promote the development of bacteria such as staphylococci or streptococci if they are used regularly for a very long time of more than eight hours. If these get into the blood through open skin areas such as wounds, toxins are produced to which the body reacts with a state of shock.

Attention must be drawn to this, warns Wasser. "In tampon ads you see a girl walking along the beach, but where is the warning of the potentially fatal harm this product can cause?" she writes. She calls for clear warnings on the packaging of hygiene products that nobody suspects are dangerous - as has been the case for years on cigarette packets.

As early as the 1970s and 1980s, there was a wave of TSS cases, with the deaths of many healthy women who had used extremely absorbent tampons containing synthetic materials such as viscose rayon. Since then, TSS has also been known as "tampon disease".

Quellen: "Vogue", "MDR", "DW"