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Girl Of The Match: Brave Ellie Plays Football Without Arms And Legs

22/11/2011 04:49 | Updated 22 May 2015
Girl of the match: Brave Ellie plays football without arms and legsWorldWideFeatures

This is brave Ellie Challis playing football.

Little Ellie, seven touched the hearts of the world when she took her first ever steps on prosthetic legs after tragically losing all her limbs to meningitis in July 2005.

She had defied all the odds to fight for her life in hospital after contracting the killer bug, but she had to have all her limbs amputated eight weeks later.

She has spent the last four years walking on prosthetic limbs - and now, amazingly, she plays football for her school team.

Ellie's mum, Lisa, 37, says:

"It is fantastic to see Ellie playing football. When she lost her legs to meningitis we never imagined that one day she would be playing football for her school team.

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All the other children are able bodied, but she keeps up with all the other team members. To think that she has prosthetic legs yet plays football for her school is just remarkable. It's something that we never thought we would ever see.

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Girl of the match: Brave Ellie plays football without arms and legsWorldWideFeatures

"She is just the most gutsy and remarkable child. She has no problems on the football field at all. She just gets on with it and she loves playing. Her favourite team is Arsenal and she watches all their matches with her dad. She's football mad."

Ellie was struck down with the near fatal bug just a month after her parents' wedding day.

Lisa, who lives in Essex, with husband Paul, 47, says:

"She woke up one morning and was sick. She had a fever too and her limbs were freezing. I took her to hospital but blood tests came back clear and we were sent home."

Girl of the match: Brave Ellie plays football without arms and legsWorldWideFeatures

But when Lisa arrived home, she noticed three red spots on Ellie's back. Just four hours later the little girl was covered in deep purple marks.

"I knew it was meningitis straight away and we rushed her back to hospital," explains Lisa.

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She was so brave as the doctors put tubes into her and her body swelled up to three times its size.

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Ellie deteriorated fast, and within minutes she was black and blue. Then just a few hours later her heart stopped and doctors called her parents in to say goodbye.

Girl of the match: Brave Ellie plays football without arms and legsWorldWideFeatures

Lisa says:

"Paul and I just stood at the end of her bed shouting at her to survive.

"We thought we were going to lose her, but amazingly she pulled through and her heart started again."

But over the next four days, slowly Ellie's legs and arms started to turn black, and the couple were told that her arms and legs would have to be amputated.

Lisa, who works as a carer for adults with learning difficulties, says:

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We were devastated. All I could think about was how she was ever going to live a normal life. The operation took six hours and I was just so shocked when I saw her - there was so little left of her. I just kept crying.

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Ellie's saviour proved to be her loving twin sister Sophie. When Ellie came home from hospital two weeks after her operation, it was Sophie who was on hand to help her.

Ellie was fitted with NHS prosthetic limbs a few weeks after the operation, but she couldn't wear them as they were too painful.

Girl of the match: Brave Ellie plays football without arms and legsWorldWideFeatures

"She would wear them for 20 minutes maximum each day as they weren't flexible and they caused her pain," explains Lisa.

Ellie was fitted with new prosthetic limbs from Dorset Orthopaedic, with moving knee joints, in December 2006, which really helped her. And her life was revolutionised in April 2009 when she became the youngest person in the world to be fitted with special carbon fibre sports legs, which allowed her to keep up with her twin.

And now two months ago, she started playing football for her school team.

"She plays once a week and trains too, and the school plays matches against other schools," says Lisa. "She's absolutely loving it. There's no holding her back."

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