Charlotte Hannibal, a 19-year-old student from Nottingham Trent University, has had both of her legs amputated after catching the meningitis disease in her first year of study.

She caught meningitis W, a rare form of the disease which is becoming increasingly more prevalent amongst students, along with septicaemia after developing flu-like symptoms.

Audio: Charlotte describes her flu-like symptoms.

Charlotte was really close to her family home so called her parents saying that she had ‘flu’. Within 48 hours of going home she was taken to A&E after falling unconscious.

She had to be resuscitated and spent three weeks in a coma at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre where it took 10 days for her condition to be diagnosed.

Charlotte and her flat mates during 'Freshers Week'
Charlotte and her flat mates during ‘Freshers Week’

Charlotte started noticing symptoms when she felt like she had a cold before her veins started collapsing.

The typical rash did not actually appear on Charlotte until she was in the intensive care unit being sedated when a very small rash on her eyelid was noticeable.

She only realised what had been wrong with her when she woke up three weeks later.

Audio: Charlotte explains what happened when she woke up being told she had meningitis.

Charlotte now walks on prosthetic legs and has also lost all the fingers on her left hand.

She is now looking forward to receiving a more sophisticated and expensive pair of prosthetics now that she has adapted to their use.

“It’s exciting. They look extremely real and can do a better range of different things,” she said.

Charlotte's prosthetic legs
Charlotte’s prosthetic legs

Altogether Charlotte was in hospital for three and a half months. Three weeks of that was spent asleep, four weeks on the intensive care unit and the rest of the time on a burns and plastics unit.

“One needle could have saved my life”
Charlotte Hannibal.

Charlotte still attends hospital appointments four times a week for various things and is now urging all students to get the meningitis vaccine.

Audio: Charlotte thinks everyone needs to be more aware of the virus.

Charlotte has the vaccine for meningitis C when she was a young child. The vaccination being given to new students between 17 and 18 did not come into effect until around a year after she first got ‘poorly’.

The MEN ACWY vaccine is available to young students, sixth formers and university ‘freshers’ and all are advised to have it.

It is given by a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y diseases.


Meningitis cases and septicaemia that is caused by meningitis W bacteria are growing.

“It’s so uncertain where I got it.”
Charlotte Hannibal.

Older teenagers and university students are at a higher risk of catching the diseases as they mix with a lot of new people that may unknowingly carrying the disease.

Charlotte thinks she caught the virus mixing with other students at university as she went out every week and went to parties with friends.

“I don’t know whether it’s when I was trying somebody’s drink of just being around somebody coughing. It’s so uncertain where I caught it from because I met so many different people,” she said.

The MEN vaccine is available at the on-site university health centre.
The MEN vaccine is available at the on-site university health centre.

Having the illness has made Charlotte interested in a medical career but she is still uncertain when she will be able to return to her studies.

She now spends her time working with charities and trying to increase awareness of the disease. She is also going to parliament next week.

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