If there is anything positive that came from model Lauren Wasser losing her leg and nearly dying of toxic shock syndrome allegedly caused by a tampon, it’s that other girls will hear her story.
“Had I known toxic shock was real, and had I seen someone that had either lost limbs or spoke about it publicly, I would have never used tampons,” she tells PEOPLE of her 2012 tragedy.
Now, the California native, 27, vows she’ll never use a tampon again – and hopes women who do will be that much more careful.
“This is not just about me. It’s about the future, and it’s about these young girls that use tampons all the time,” says the model, who, as a result of the TSS suffered organ failure, a heart attack and developed gangrene which required a below-the-knee amputation of her right leg and caused severe damage to her left foot. “If people see the pain I’ve had to go through, maybe they’ll be more cautious and they’ll use pads, stop sleeping in them and just take care of themselves more.”
And despite being “in pain every single day” Wasser – who is suing the manufacturer of Kotex Natural Balance, the brand of tampons she used – has also found a way to come to terms with what happened to her.
Heartbroken Model Loses Leg to Toxic Shock Syndrome after Using a Tampon
“I feel like I’m here for a purpose,” says the 5’11” beauty. “I want to show that this doesn’t define who I am. I’m still who I’ve always been and I still have a big heart and I still have a life to live. This has given me even more of a fight.”
For more on Wasser and her battle with TSS, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday