She thought she was suffering from flu. But she ended up having both legs amputated below the knee, losing all the fingers on her left hand and undergoing a kidney transplant.
In fact, Selston teenager Charlotte Hannibal had been struck by the killer disease, meningitis, and was forced to spend 17 days in an induced coma. When she woke up, she couldn’t even remember what had happened to her.
But now, inspirational Charlotte, a 19-year-old student, is not only recovering, she is also using her experiences to help save the lives of others.
For she has become one of 34 Young Ambassadors across the UK for the charity, Meningitis Now, and is carrying out voluntary work to raise money and awareness, and to provide support for people in the Selston area suffering from the disease.
“I know first hand how devastating meningitis can be, so I’m honoured to help,” said Charlotte. “It’s vital that people are made aware of the symptoms so they can act fast and save lives. I want to ensure no-one in my community goes through meningitis alone.”
The symptoms Charlotte herself had last year included feeling cold, shivering, a sore throat and a bloating feeling in her stomach. Her fears about flu almost turned to tragedy.
“I was left with severe memory-loss,” she recalled. “I couldn’t remember being ill at all. My hearing was also damaged, and as well as losing my legs and fingers, my kidneys no longer worked properly because of severe scarring.
“I still have to spend four days a week in hospital and have to attend mutliple rehabilitation appointments. But I am just very grateful to be alive and well.”
Charlotte is also getting to grips with a new prosthetic hand, which she describes as so “fantastic” that “people struggle to tell whether it is real or not”. And as she recovers, her work as a Young Ambassador has included organising a music evening to raise funds
Meningitis Now’s chief executive, Liz Brown, said: “We’re thrilled that Charlotte has joined us as the face of the charity in her area. Her contribution is commendable, helping us to eradicate meningitis. With her support, enthusiasm and hard work, alongside our regional team, we can achieve great things and beat this disease.”