Teen Who Lost Both Legs And An Arm To Meningitis Aims To Be Paralympics Rider

14/08/2014 16:56 | Updated 22 May 2015

Teen who lost both legs and an arm to meningitis aims to be Paralympic horse rider

When she was five years old, Ellie Bishop started to feel sick and her temperature soared. Her parents took her to see her GP, who thought she had a viral infection.

However, within hours Ellie started to develop a blotchy rash on her arms and legs and her father rushed her to Sandwell Hospital, in the West Midlands.

Doctors diagnosed Ellie with meningitis and she was transferred to University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

Karen said: "At the time I didn't have a proper understanding of meningitis, but she had doctors all around her and we knew it was serious."

Over the next 10 days Ellie battled for her life. Her diagnosis was confirmed as meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia – and she had to have both of her legs and one arm amputated.

It's incredible then that now she's 13 years old, Ellie has not only adapted to life without the same mobility as others but has kept up all of the hobbies she had before meningitis – and now the keen horse rider is hoping to become a Paralympic dressage rider.

Ellie's mother Karen Dunnaway, 31, said: "Ellie has been through such a lot and has really been very determined to carry on a normal life.

"Horses are her passion and she used to ride before she became ill and was adamant she would get back in the saddle one day."

Just 12 months after her illness, Ellie had a saddle custom made for her and she began to ride horses again.

Karen said: "All me and her father Paul have wanted is for Ellie to make a good recovery. She was so close to death so we were relieved when she was stable.

"The last thing I was thinking about was her getting back on a horse. But we have never stopped her doing anything and her attitude is amazing."

Ellie, from Rowley Regis, West Midlands, now makes time to ride her horse, Mollie, at least three times a week and also enjoys swimming and cooking.

Karen said: "Horses rely a lot upon being guided by legs and as Ellie doesn't have any she has to use other parts of her body language. It is important for Ellie to bond with her horse, but also for the horse to bond with Ellie."

She added: "Often Ellie will wake up before me in the morning and surprise me with homemade pancakes.

"She loves cooking and has taught herself how to do it. If she drops something then she drops it- it isn't an issue.

"I never discourage her from doing anything- I firmly believe she can do whatever she wants to."

Chris Head, of Meningitis Research Foundation, said: "Ellie and her family know better than anyone how quickly meningitis and septicaemia can strike.

"Despite suffering from life-changing after-effects, which is sadly the case with many of our members, Ellie is still able to enjoy life to the full and doesn't let her amputations hold her back.

"Vaccines have almost eliminated many types of meningitis and septicaemia, but they still present a very real threat so make sure you know the symptoms, trust your instincts and seek medical help."


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