Aimee Haller Follis hardly knew anything about toxic shock syndrome before she nearly lost her life because of it.
Besides reading the standard warning that comes on every box of tampons, Follis, 37, told PEOPLE she hadn’t really heard anything about TSS since grade school, and assumed it was “kind of an old wives’ tale.”
But in May 2017, Follis spent 11 days in the hospital after contracting TSS, an incredibly rare disease that occurs in only 1 out of every 100,000 people, but can can cause organ damage, shock, and even death in 50 percent of cases, according to the CDC.
Follis told PEOPLE she first noticed something was off about her health after moving to a new house in May with husband Matthew and her two boys — James, 5, and Luke, 3 — but at the time she chalked it up to run-of-the-mill exhaustion. Even when she developed a fever a few days later on May 4, Follis still wasn’t concerned, thinking she had most likely come down with the flu.
However, once her fever spiked to 104.2 degrees the following night, Follis knew there was something more serious going on — but she still decided not to seek medical treatment right away.
“Quite frankly, like most women, especially moms, you kind of worry about everybody else and put yourself second,” she told PEOPLE, explaining that she “didn’t want to go to the emergency room on a Saturday night” and thought she’d “tough it out until the morning.”
She also said that she didn’t think much of her fever at the time because “I have two little boys who get high fevers and ear infections all the time and have been fine.”
“Now I’ve learned that adults shouldn’t have that high of a fever,” she added.
But when Follis woke up on Sunday morning, her situation had turned from bad to worse.