AN INSPIRATIONAL Coleraine teenager who lost both legs and part of an arm after battling meningitis as a toddler, is launching the first Meningitis UK Big Stroll.
Louise Greer, 15, contracted meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia when she was just two and a half-years-old. Her parents rushed her to hospital after she fell unconscious at home.
The following day she was diagnosed with meningitis and taken to the Belfast City Hospital where medics battled to save her life from the killer disease.
Using prosthetic legs and an arm as she grew up, Louise has taken part in numerous walks to raise money for Meningitis UK’s pioneering vaccine research.
Last Wednesday, Louise and her support worker, Yvonne Hegarty, launched the first of two Meningitis UK one-day walks in Northern Ireland.
Louise told The Coleraine Times: “The Big Stroll is a chance to get together with other people who have been touched by meningitis. I know there are many tragic stories, but as someone who has survived this disease, I want to show people that it’s not all bad – that people who have lost limbs to this disease can rebuild their lives and go on to achieve great things. I will be also be walking with my friend who sadly lost her brother to meningitis.”
The determined young woman is now training to compete for a place to represent Northern Ireland in horse riding in the 2016 Olympics.
Yvonne, also from Coleraine, said: “We both wanted to come along for the launch of this exciting new walk and show our support. “I feel passionately about this charity. I spent a lot of time on the Meningitis UK website reading very moving stories from many people who have lost people to this awful disease and having worked with Louise for four years and seen how determined she is, I feel really strongly that we should be raising money to help eradicate meningitis.
“I really hope the people of Northern Ireland sign up to walk this beautiful walk and get behind a very worthy cause.”
The stunning Big Stroll Causeway Coast walk on Saturday, June 2 will wind through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty taking in far-reaching rugged cliff-top paths and breath-taking views across the sea of Scottish Islands.
The walk will pass the world famous Giant’s Causeway, 15th Century Dunseverick Castle and its quaint harbour as well as the beautiful, sweeping White Park Bay.
Meningitis UK founder Steve Dayman, who lost his son to meningitis in 1982, said: “We are delighted to be launching this walk with Louise whose determination and strength never ceases to inspire the team at Meningitis UK.
“The people of Northern Ireland have always been so generous and supportive of our charity for which we are so grateful. I am hoping they also give their warm-hearted support to our new Big Stroll walk to raise vital funds which will help save lives.”
The cliff top terrain will appeal to walking enthusiasts but may not be suitable for young children.
To sign up or to find out more about Meningitis UK’s work, call 0117 947 6320 or visit: www.meningitisuk.org/bigstroll