‘I’m walking again!’
Tuesday 14 June 2011
As three-year-old charlotte Nott teeters around her garden, her parents are full of pride. Five months ago, the little girl from Oxford had all four of her limbs removed after falling ill with a deadly strain of meningitis.
And now, lucky to be alive, she’s trying out her new “legs” for the first time. She beams as she shows off the prosthetics, saying: “I’m a big girl again, Mummy!”
Mum Jenny Daniels, 29, says: “It feels like a miracle to have got this far. Watching Charlotte stand on her prosthetics gives me so much hope. It’s a total contrast to December, when I was sitting by her hospital bed simply willing her to survive.”
Closer met Charlotte two months ago when we introduced her to Ellie Challis, seven – a little girl who’d lost her hands and lower legs to meningitis when she was a toddler. We’ve followed Ellie’s story since 2005 and have been amazed by how she’s coped.
The two girls spent the day at Mead Open Farm in Bedfordshire, where Ellie, from Little Clacton, Essex, showed Charlotte her prosthetic limbs, modified wheelchair and special blades for running around. For Jenny, it was the boost they needed. Jenny says: “Charlotte was excited about being taller than her brother, 18-month-old George, again, and couldn’t wait to ‘have legs like Ellie.’”
And it enabled Jenny, who works in admin for a book publisher, and Alex, 29, an air-conditioning repair man, to know what to expect when they took Charlotte to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford to pick up her NHS prosthetics last month. Jenny says: “Her eyes lit up when she saw her new ‘legs.’”
Since 10 December, when Jenny and Alex found Charlotte in her cot with the tell-tale purple rash, their lives have been turned upside down. Charlotte was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia and doctors feared she wouldn’t survive. Amazingly, she pulled through but over the next five days, her limbs started to turn black and her parents were told they’d have to be amputated. Jenny says: “It was horrendous.”
While being introduced to Ellie was a boost for Charlotte, meeting her mum, Lisa, 37, was helpful for Jenny, too. Jenny says: “Lisa said it could take a year for Charlotte’s life to get back to normal, so we didn’t get our hopes up.
Charlotte still has a long way to go. Her wounds are still healing, so she can only use the legs for 20 minutes, five times each day. She can’t walk on her own and has a mini Zimmer frame for help standing. Sometimes she gets frustrated and cries or prefers tojust crawl around, which is faster, but we’ll keep practising.”
But there was an added excitement that came with the new “legs” – Charlotte’s mum bought her first pair of shoes since she fell ill. Jenny explains: “After Charlotte lost her legs, she was devastated she couldn’t wear shoes. A week before she got prosthetics, I let her choose new trainers. She wanted Sketchers Twinkle Toes – pink velcro trainers with sparkles – and the prosthetics have been modified to fit them. She showed them to everyone, saying: ‘I can wear these when I get legs.’”
Since then, Alex and Jenny have reduced their work hours to look after Charlotte and have struggled to make ends meet. Jenny says: “Friends and family have helped with mortgage payments and shopping. Charlotte is getting stronger, but I still fear for her – I see people stare at her when we’re out and I’m worried it reminds her she doesn’t look like everyone else. It’s my job to make sure she knows she can live her life to the fullest. Getting these ‘legs’ is a great first step!”
By Jenn Wiley