‘I thought it was freshers’ flu’ – Student who lost both legs and her fingers to meningitis is given prosthetic hand

Charlotte Hannibal
Charlotte Hannibal
Charlotte Hannibal

A student who thought she was suffering from Freshers’ flu but ended up losing both legs and fingers to meningitis is on the road to recovery thanks to a prosthetic HAND.

Charlotte Hannibal, 19, visited her GP after suffering a sore throat and other flu-like symptoms – but ended up in an induced coma for three weeks.

She woke up in hospital to discover that both her legs would have to be amputated after being diagnosed with a life-threatening strain of septicaemia and meningitis.

Doctors decided to amputate both legs below the knee, as well as all the fingers on Charlotte’s left hand in a bid to save her life.

The former Business Studies student was eventually diagnosed with septicaemia and meningitis
The former Business Studies student was eventually diagnosed with septicaemia and meningitis

Charlotte has since made an incredible recovery and was recently given a life-like prosthetic hand to help her get back to normality.

The fake limb – which is not available on the NHS – fits over her palm and is identical her skin tone.

Charlotte, of Selston, Notts., is now also campaigning for other students to make sure they’re vaccinated against the condition as they start university this month.

She said: “I feel incredibly lucky. I’m still alive, and although I’ve lost both my lower legs and fingers, some people have lost a lot more.

“I used to be the laziest person I know but now I will give anything a go, I have a long journey ahead of me still but I will give every step of the way 100 per cent.

“The biggest thing is getting students to have the vaccine – having that might have stopped this in the first place.

“You know some people haven’t thought twice about getting it, but you shouldn’t let this be the reason you find out.”

She first fell ill during a house party with flatmates while studying business studies at Nottingham Trent University in February last year.

Charlotte with the new prosthetic hand
Charlotte with the new prosthetic hand

But after her condition worsened her worried parents, Dawn and Peter took her to a walk-in clinic before she was rushed to hospital.

Charlotte added: “”I just thought it was a normal flu, a normal cold.

“It felt like a really bad case of the flu, we thought it might be some kind of virus and might need some kind of antibiotics which is why we went to the GP.”

She was put into an induced coma while doctors took 10 days to daignose her with meningococcal septicaemia.

The type of meningitis she had – known as meningococcal group W – has been increasing since 2009, with cases rising in particularly university students.

It is fatal in one in 10 cases and students are particularly susceptible, mixing among each other.

Charlotte woke up in Nottingham’s City Hospital, but just a few days later, doctors told her the amputation was needed to try to save her life.

She added: “They said at the moment things are stable, but things keep coming back because the illness is based in your legs.

“It (amputation) would be taking the illness with it – it was a no brainer should I do this or not.”

SWNS_HANNIBAL_MENINGITIS_02Charlotte has learnt to adapt, and can now eat using one hand, do nail art on her prosthetic legs and has re-learnt to ride a bike.

Recently she was presented with the cosmetic hand by the Worshipful Company Glovers of London.

Charlotte added: “The biggest change that my new prosthetic hand has provided, is that if I should wish to, I’ve got the option to become completely hidden in a crowd.

“I no longer look out of the ordinary.

“It has made such a huge difference to my social skills and fuels my ever-growing confidence just a little bit more.”

Charlotte was also left with kidney damage as a result of the disease but came off dialysis six weeks ago after her mum Dawn, 48, donated a kidney.

Dawn added: “Charlotte is remarkable, I am not sure I would have been able to take it all on.

“It’s not until you’ve been in these situations that you realise what it’s like – you can second guess but you never know your own strength.”

Occupational therapist Jane Gayne, who nominated Charlotte for the funding for the hand, said: “I had met Charlotte on the Burns Unit and thought she would want to consider this one off unique opportunity.

“She agreed and when she felt well enough the first cast was made at the Mobility Centre.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed this collaboration and the outcome for Charlotte has been fantastic.”

David Stone, Secretary to the Glovers Charitable Trust Board, said: “Charlotte is the perfect candidate for our first grant in the area.

“She is a most amazing person, providing a wonderful role model and demonstrating outstanding positivity. We are thrilled to be associated with Charlotte and her family.”


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