A whole community has rallied round to help a young meningitis survivor and the charity supporting her as she fights back from the disease.
Student Charlotte Hannibal, 19, of Selston had both legs amputated below the knee and lost all the fingers on her left hand when she contracted the disease last year.
Although Charlotte has now recovered from meningitis, she has been left with a number of after-effects, which have changed her life dramatically.
She is urging young people particularly students to have life saving vaccinations which she says could have saved her from her ordeal.
Charlotte told how she spent 17 days in an induced coma and awoke unable to remember what had happened to her. It was then she learnt that she had contracted meningococcal group W meningitis and septicaemia.
She said: “After returning to university from a family weekend at home, I attended all my Monday lectures and classes feeling as healthy as ever. But, by Tuesday morning I was ringing my parents asking if I could come home - I felt unwell but thought I just had a common flu.”
“My symptoms included feeling cold, shivering, and a sore throat.”
Her symptoms quickly deteriorated.
She said; “My father came to pick me up and take me home where I slept, but I woke up in the middle of the night vomiting and my symptoms persisted right through to Wednesday morning.”
By Wednesday afternoon her parents made the decision to call the local GP for some advice, but after being greeted by an answerphone message saying the practice was closed for training, they turned to 111.
They were advised to visit their closest walk-in centre so Charlotte could be seen.”
“Upon arriving at the walk-in health centre at Kingsmill Hospital at 4:17pm I had a lack of energy and was unable to walk. My parents hired a wheelchair to get me inside but little did anyone know, this would be the last time I would ever stand on my own two feet.”
“After an hour of waiting I was seen by a doctor, who after a five minute discussion sent me straight through to A&E. By 6:30pm I had suffered from complete organ failure and had only just developed a slight rash on my eyelids.”
The decision was taken to put her into an induced coma.
“I was told to say goodbye to my family, and just hoped that when I awoke I would feel much better.”
“During the time I was asleep I fought for my life and eventually began to fight off the infection. After 17 days, and now being treated at Nottingham City Hospital, I was woken up and told exactly what had been happening to me over the past few weeks.”
The disease had exacted a terrible toll on her body.
She had spent a total of 27 days in intensive care and 12 weeks on a burns and plastics ward. Both her legs had to be amputated below the knee and all the fingers on her left hand.
She said; “I was left with severe memory loss so was unable to remember being ill at all. My hearing was also damaged, and at this stage, I was unable to move anything but my eyes and mouth. But it was my first step towards recovery.”
“On the 15th of June I was finally able to stay at home for the first time since February.”
“Due to severe scarring, my kidneys no longer work at the necessary rate, so I will be on dialysis every night until a kidney transplant can be achieved. Whilst I still have to attend multiple rehabilitation appointments, and spend four days a week at the hospital, I’m very grateful to be alive and well.”
Charlotte’s friend William Fowkes and landlord and landlady Ian and Annette Edwards from the Queens Head at Riddings, in Alfreton, organised a live concert to raise funds for charity Meningitis Now, as well as towards the prosthetic limbs Charlotte will need in the future.
Charlotte said; “Lots of locals, family and friends attended the evening - so many that the pub was filled with people standing shoulder to shoulder.”
The evening raised £200 for Meningitis Now and a similar sum for Charlotte’s prosthetic fund for later on in her life when specialised legs will be required.
She added; “I’m so pleased that we can raise awareness of meningitis. The money is a fantastic thing and people have been so generous, but prevention is always the best cure for an illness like this.
“I’d like to thank everybody who helped me with the event, particularly the musicians Billy Blue, John O’Brien, Eloise Walker and Blue Savannah, and all those who came along on the evening.”
Meningitis Now, the only charity dedicated to fighting the devastating disease in the UK
Starting in August this year, all 17 - 18-year-olds and first year university students in the UK are being offered a free vaccine which protects against meningococcal A, C, W and Y bacteria.
Lucie Riches, Meningitis Now’s regional support officer in the East Midlands, said: “We’d like to thank Charlotte for her wonderful fundraising efforts. We rely on the energy, enthusiasm and initiative of her and those like her to raise the funds we need each and every day to continue our vital research, awareness and support work.
“Events like this make a real difference to those who are at risk from meningitis and those whose lives have already been changed forever because of it.”
For more information on meningitis and the charity and to donate visit www.meningitisnow.org or call the helpline on 0808 80 10 388.
Meningitis and Septicaemia Facts
Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses.
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
Septicaemia is blood poisoning.
Some bacteria that cause meningitis also cause septicaemia.
Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together – it is vital to know all the signs and symptoms.
The early signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can be similar to ‘flu and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle pain.
The more specific signs and symptoms include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash which doesn’t fade under pressure.
In babies, symptoms can also include being floppy and unresponsive, dislike of being handled, rapid breathing, an unusual, moaning cry and a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the top of the head).
There are an estimated 3,200 cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia each year in the UK.
Following bacterial meningitis or septicaemia, one in ten people will die and at least a third of survivors will be left with lifelong after-effects such as hearing loss, epilepsy, limb loss or learning difficulties
Meningitis and septicaemia can affect anyone, of any age, at any time. However, babies and young children are most at risk, and young people between 15 – 24 years are also a higher risk group.
In the past 20 years, effective vaccines have been developed to give protection against SOME types of meningitis. These are offered to all babies and young children as part of the UK childhood immunisation programme. BUT there are not vaccines to protect against ALL types.
A vaccine to protect against meningococcal group B (Men B) disease, the most common cause of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia, was introduced into the UK childhood immunisation programme for newborn babies in September 2015.
If you suspect someone may be ill with meningitis or septicaemia, trust your instincts and get immediate medical help.