A Leyland youngster who had part of her leg amputated after beating meningitis has been named as the first junior ambassador to raise awareness about the disease.
Eight-year-old Sofia Crockatt, who attends St Catherine’s RC Primary School, spent three months in hospital when she was just two years old after contracting meningococcal septicaemia.
The damage to the toddler’s lower limbs was so bad that the doctors had to amputate her left leg below the knee, and it took a long time for her to learn how to walk again using a prosthetic leg.
Now, six years after the terrifying ordeal, the brave girl is inspiring others with her tale of survival as the first junior ambassador for the Meningitis Research Foundation, and is even taking on the challenge of running the 1.5km Mini-Great North Run in Newcastle later this year.
Proud dad Nick, 42, says last year’s paralympics made people realise what amputeesare able to achieve.
And he gave him and wife Karen the confidence to let Sofia try a new type of prosthetic.
He said: “Sofia is just an incredibly positive, amazing kid.
“The paralympics really changed people’s perceptions of prosthetics and made people proud of what the paralympians can do.
“They became heroes to everyone, not just amputees.
“Sofia and I would watch videos over and over again on the internet of the games, and it became evident that she couldn’t be as active on a regular prosthetic as she would like to be.
“A consultant advised us to try a blade leg, and now she’s much more mobile. She can run around with her friends and take part in school sports days, and she goes horse-riding once a week.
“She’s more confident, and has got a real bug for sport at the moment.”
He added: “She has pictures of paralympians all over her bedroom wall. They have really motivated her.”
Sofia was given the chance of a lifetime when she got to meet one of her idols – runner and Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock.
Jonnie, who shares a similar story to Sofia, contracted meningitis when he was five years old, resulting in the disease killing the tissues of his right leg.
His leg was amputated below the knee, but he too was determined not to let that stop him live his dreams, and is now a patron of the Meningitis Research Foundation.
Nick said: “For Sofia, it was like an avid football fan meeting David Beckham. She loved it.”
Now an ambassador for the charity himself, along with Sofia’s mum Karen, Nick wants to help raise awareness to other parents about the signs to look out for in children.
He said: “It was in February 2007 when it all happened.
“Sofia had been suffering with a flu bug, but it didn’t seem too serious, and she had been up in the middle of the night feeling sickly, but still playing with her toys.
“The next day when we went in to see her, she was almost motionless in her cot, and she was red hot, and started with what is known as the ‘purple rash’ on her legs.
“Immediately I knew something was wrong, so her older brother Dom called for an ambulance, and she was rushed to Royal Preston Hospital.
“They worked on her for about four or five hours to make her stable, and it was literally touch and go.
“Then she was transferred to a hospital in Manchester, and was in intensive care for just short of two weeks.”
The disease meant that her blood flow was cut off to her legs.
The decision was made that in order to survive, the toddler would need to have her left leg amputated below the knee, whilst doctors fought to save her right leg.
It took about a year for her to build up enough strength to walk again, and she spent most of her time in a wheelchair.
Now though, she’s literally coming on in leaps and bounds, as she prepares for the charity run in September.
“When we all became ambassadors, we wanted to think of ways to raise money as well as awareness for the Meningitis Research Foundation,” Nick explained.
“We thought it would be great if Sofia could walk the Bupa Mini-Great North Run, but she was really up for running it instead.
“Now she trains with a coach at the Blackpool and Stanley Park Sports Centre to use her blade leg efficiently, and to build up her muscles.
“She can do 800m now, and some sprinting, which is fantastic. She’s so driven and enthusiastic.”
Nick is also preparing to run the full Great North Run the following day, and between them, dad and daughter hope to raise £10,000 for the foundation.
They have collected £4,500 so far, and people can donate, as well as seen updates on Sofia’s training and progress, by visiting www.justgiving.com/Nick-Crockatt.
To find out more about Meningitis, visit www.meningitis.org