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Changing Disability Narratives

Lauren Wasser Delivered a Speech on Role Models for TEDx

— March 16, 2018 — Keynote Trends
In her speech on role models, model and activist Lauren Wasser begins by telling her TEDxTelAviv audience about how she lost her leg back in 2012 due to complications with toxic shock syndrome, a severe outcome of a specific bacterial infection that can be caused by tampons. One day when on her period, she started feeling off, but attributed the feeling to the flu, and went home to relax. She fell asleep but her symptoms progressed, and she was later found on her apartment floor with a 107 degree fever.

With her organs failing, she fell into a heart attack, and was later put into a medically induced coma. She woke up over a week later and felt excruciating pain on her foot, which had turned black. Her leg had to be amputated, as the infection in her leg was moving up. Over the course of the ordeal, Wasser had reached 200 pounds and had to have her head shaved as well. This, and the amputation of her leg, left her feeling like a completely different person, and she didn't know how to cope at first. She considered suicide on multiple occasions during this time, but couldn't let her family deal with the pain that she would cause them as a result.

It was around this time that Wasser was contacted by a photographer, who was interested in collaborating with her on a project. Although Wasser was still bound to a wheel chair, her connection with the photographer inspired her to keep pushing forward, and she spent all the time she could learning to walk again on a prosthetic. She and her new partner began to do more research on the dangers of tampon use, and the many other women who have been taken by TSS. This inspired the pair to do what they could to make a difference, and they released a campaign in which Wasser posed confidently with her prosthetic. This led to new work for Wasser, and she was happy to have the chance to show a different side of beauty to the media.

By relaying her experience to the audience, and showing how she overcame her feelings of displacement by acting as a role model, Wasser communicates that anything is possible, and that a disability should never define or constrain someone.