Then, out of the blue, the 16-year-old’s life changed irrevocably. Sophia contracted meningococcal septicaemia.
“My life collapsed like a pack of cards,” she said. “I was in a deep coma for two weeks. The blood poisoning ripped through my body and turned my legs and the fingers on my right hand black.”
To save her life, Sophia had her legs and part of her right hand amputated.
It was a horrific time but Sophia was determined that meningitis was not going to destroy her life as it had destroyed her legs. She said: “I’m a positive person and I’m realistic. I learnt how to walk again using artificial legs. By July I could walk without sticks and by September I was back at university.”
Sophia’s experience led her to reassess her career plans. She decided she wanted to work as a make-up artist for film and TV special effects and now runs her own make-up business.
Sophia stunned medics when she fell pregnant with Chloe in 2009. She thought she would never be a mum after doctors said the disease may prohibit it.
“It was something that has always worried me as I have a really strong maternal instinct and I always wanted children. When I discovered that I was pregnant – I was thrilled. I couldn’t believe I was going to be a mum.”
But Sophia lost her baby Chloe a week before she was due. She set up Count the Kicks to raise awareness. Sophia said: “I hadn’t felt her move for two days and when I was scanned at the hospital, it showed there was no heartbeat.
“We were absolutely devastated.”
The campaign has saved lives, including her next baby, son George, who was delivered by emergency caesarian after his heartbeat slowed. She also set up a Facebook page and within months had more than 5,000 mums join it.
“I was anxious and monitored my baby’s every move when I discovered I was pregnant for a second time,” Sophia said. When I was 36 weeks pregnant I felt the baby had stopped moving. I was terrified I was going to lose this baby too.”
She went to hospital and doctors discovered that the baby’s heartbeat was slowing. She was given an emergency caesarian and baby George was delivered, weighing 6Ib8. Sophia said: “Tests later showed that my placenta had been failing, which had caused George’s heartbeat to slow. The doctors told me it could have proved fatal if I hadn’t noticed it when I did. Thanks to Count the Kicks I noticed it when I did.”
She has just given birth to another baby, and continues to campaign as well as support Meningitis Now. “I’m happy to allow Meningitis Now to tell my story to help raise awareness about this devastating disease – it’s vital that everybody knows about the signs and symptoms and what to do to help protect themselves and their loved ones,” Sophia added.
You can see our FastestHour film, with Sophia's voiceover telling the story in her own words.