Brave Norwich girl takes first steps after losing her legs to meningitis
The parents of a brave little girl who had both legs amputated as she battled meningitis have spoken of the emotional moments when they first saw their four-year-old daughter walk again.
Less than a year ago Grace Matthews, of Bacton Road, Mile Cross, was fighting for her life after being rushed to hospital with a temperature, sickness and a rash all over her body.
To save her life, doctors had to amputate both legs below the knee and she also lost all her fingers, half the thumb of her left hand and half the palm of her right hand.
She has continued to be a cheerful little girl and now her parents, Brian and Vicky Matthews, have been given the best early Christmas present ever – when they saw her take her first independent steps with her new prosthetic legs.
Grace became determined to start walking when she was visited by Matthew Newbury, the Norwich-born man who recently became the first UK patient to receive a new bionic leg prosthetic system.
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The Evening News put Mr Newbury in touch with the Matthews family after Grace's grandmother Lyn Matthews contacted the paper asking for help.
Grace's mum Vicky, 37, said: 'When Matthew Newbury came round he was showing Grace how he uses his legs and Grace asked to put her legs on.
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'She took her first few steps that day outside the school while we were waiting for Thomas (Grace's six-year-old brother).
'We were talking to Brian's sister Clare about Grace's legs when Grace said, 'let go of me,' and took three steps on her own towards her aunt. It was an emotional moment.
'Then she came back home and was walking around using the wall as guidance.
'It was unbelievable how quickly she went from taking three steps to walking around the house.
'I was telling Brian on the phone when she said, 'Mum come and have a look at me,' and she walked from the TV to the sofa. She had been walking before, but she always had someone holding her. I gasped when I saw her and had tears in my eyes.'
Brian, 42, a delivery driver, said: 'Grace told me to wait near the front door and walked towards me.
'That feeling was overwhelming – just seeing her standing there and walking was unbelievable. It was lovely.'
Now Grace will be getting more and more used to her new legs – made in her favourite colours of pink and purple – and she is walking a few more steps every day
She still has a long way to go, but her parents say the way their daughter deals with everything is an inspiration.
She is a happy little girl who likes going to her school, Mile Cross Primary, loves everything pink and especially adores her little kitten Vixi.
Vicky said: 'We are really, really proud of her. She is unbelievable. It is amazing how she gets through everything. It is like to her there is nothing wrong. She is a very inspiring, very strong little girl.
'We get a lot of our strength from her.'
Mr and Mrs Matthews said a huge thank you to all the medical staff who have looked after Grace and also everyone who has helped them fundraise for her – the amount of money raised so far runs into thousands. Some has been spent on a special wheelchair and some is being saved.
They are also very keen to raise awareness of meningitis and the symptoms which can often initially be mistaken for other conditions, and last week the whole family went to Westminster as part of the Meningitis Matters campaign which has been prompted by fears that radical NHS reforms may destabilise progress that has been made to control meningitis and septicaemia (the blood poisoning form of the disease).
But for now the Matthews family are looking forward to being together for a great big family Christmas.
Vicky said: 'What has happened really makes you appreciate your time with your family and your loved ones. We have got two big family get-togethers planned this Christmas and we are going to make sure we all have a super-duper Christmas.'
Anybody who would like to help with fundraising for Grace can contact the Matthews family on 01603 479557 or email email@example.com
Do you know an inspiring child who has overcome the odds? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org