My life since Meningitis has been a challenge but I am grateful for every day of it
I went straight to my bed and my parents carried on their day, checking on me every now and then, it wasn’t until the next morning they quickly realised I was suffering from more than just flu, I was very, very ill, one of my legs was dangling out from under my duvet and seemed to be covered in bruises. They called the doctor who recognised the symptoms immediately and headed straight over, calling an ambulance on his way.
I was rushed to hospital drifting in and out of consciousness; all I remember was hearing my mum and dad, I could hear panic in their voices, but I felt too ill to care, I could feel the life draining out of me and was in excruciating pain.
5 days later I was brought round from the induced coma. I was so weak, unable to move my hands and I couldn’t feel my legs; the doctors explained I’d had meningitis and as a result blood poisoning had set in and my fingers and feet had been badly damaged. They kept my legs covered for a few days but I could see my fingers were black and looked like stone. I asked to see my legs - uncovering them, I was stunned. My long, slim legs were now swollen, black and rotten, quite clearly even to a 16 year old - there was nothing that would save them. I looked at the consultant directly in the eyes asked “Are you going to cut my legs off?” “Almost certainly yes Sophia” he replied. On 20th January 1993, both my legs were amputated below the knee, along with 3 fingers and my thumb of my right hand. Just one month before my 17th birthday and my life was shattered.
That was 23 years ago, I had no idea what my life ahead would hold; would I walk again? Would I ski again? Would I ever get married or have children? Would I even live to see my 18th birthday?
I look back at what I’ve achieved and feel proud but even more so very grateful. I learned to walk on false legs in just 6 weeks, I skied again just a year later, I went on to study beauty with an aim to train in media makeup. I wanted to work in TV and film, recreating wounds and special effects; by the age of 22 I was doing just this, over the years working for BBC, Channel Four and lots of films and commercials, but my passion was weddings, working with over 1,000 brides throughout my career. I met Dan in 2009 and we had our first baby Chloe (tragically she was stillborn); our son George was born in 2011. We married in 2014 and our baby girl Elodie joined us in 2015. I am a mum, a wife and a business women.
My life since meningitis has been a challenge but I am grateful for every day of it. Meningitis Now has been by my side since Day One, initially supporting my parents, then as and when I had questions or worries they were always there to answer them. I’ve met so many amazing people through the charity, many who have lost children the same age as me. They’ve inspired me. Meningitis Now have been there for me and I have always done whatever I can to help them in return.
This year has been a poignant year for me; now I am a mother I worry about meningitis and constantly look out for signs and symptoms. It’s only now I realise just how important their work is, their literature is given to each and every mother, if you visit the GP or have to call an ambulance, the first things you are asked are looking for symptoms of meningitis; this is because of the constant campaigning and research the charity have done. I decided it is time to put something back into the charity that has played such a huge part in my life - being asked to be a Community Ambassador for Meningitis Now is a huge honour to me. This charity saves lives; awareness and fundraising is key in their battle to beat meningitis and I hope by sharing my story I can help them save more.
I was honoured to be asked if my story could be used in a hard-hitting film called The Fastest Hour. After speaking to the producers, they asked if I would be happy to actually tell the story myself in my own words. It was tough to re-live such a scary time in my life, but I’m so proud of how successful the film has been for Meningitis Now and the impact it continues to make.