By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno
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Videographer / director: Vivianne Howard
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus, Sonia Estal
At the age of seven Isabelle Weall, of Derby in the UK, suffered organ failure and a heart attack after contracting Meningitis, which resulted in her losing the lower part of her arms and legs to stop the infection spreading.
But the 14-year-old’s resilient spirit has led to an incredible list of achievements, including becoming a national trampoline champion and winning awards for her inspirational story.
Isabelle, who trains twice a week, told Barcroft Media: “At one point I did have a less than 1% chance of survival. With how well I’m doing now, it’s amazing that I took the 1%.”
“Over the years I have found a way to do everything that I used to do before, if not more.”
After overcoming her terrifying ordeal with meningitis, the determined teen went on to train as a trampolinist, winning the 2016 National Championship, and recently winning a second national championship in March 2018 in Belfast.
“That was amazing because I’d never done competitions on that scale before,” said Isabelle. “There was so many other people in the category with me – people that didn’t have a disability as serious as mine – so when they shouted out my name as being 1st place I was so shocked.”
“It’s really something that everyone’s really shocked by, but I like proving to people that I can do stuff they wouldn’t think I could.”
Isabelle uses leg blades and, as well as becoming a talented trampolinist, has taught herself how to do everything from typing on a keyboard, to writing, and even her make-up.
She has become so adept at the latter, she often posts make-up tutorial videos on her YouTube channel, where she is amassing a considerable following.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself she is only 14,” said Isabelle’s mum Cathy. “She’s had some amazing experiences, and however dark days have been in the past, a lot of these things we would never have had the opportunity to do if she hadn’t got ill.
“She makes the most of her life, and life’s for living, so it’s brilliant.”
At the time of her illness, Isabelle had to be put into an induced coma for around a week, and was in hospital for about two months before she was released.
Cathy recalled the day Isabelle fell ill: “It was September, 2010 and she had gone off to school in the morning and she had been absolutely fine.
“Then half past 10, 11 o’clock , I had a call from school saying she wasn’t well. So I went to pick her up and she just seemed to have a bit of fever and sickness bug.
“In the evening we thought she seemed very very sleepy, and it was at that point we thought this isn’t actually right. It’s a bit more, so we did ring an ambulance at that point.”
The ambulance arrived and Isabelle was given a life-saving anti-biotic injection before being taken to hospital, but for a time, it was unclear whether she would pull through.
“It’s so hideous to remember. We didn’t know she would live for quite a few weeks,” added Cathy.
Once Isabelle had been in hospital for some weeks, the decision was made to amputate all four of her limbs, below the elbows and knees, in order to save her life.
The recovery would be an equally difficult process.
Isabelle said: “I think after I’d had my operation I just wanted to be able to do what I couldn’t do again.".
“At the age of seven I hadn’t long learned to do everything, so I had to relearn how to walk, to write, so that was quite frustrating having to do all that again.“
Despite the incredible setback, Isabelle remained positive and quickly overcame the initial challenges of learning to walk again on prosthetics.
This determined spirit carried over to trampolining, which she started in year 7, and quickly showed promise.
Now, Isabelle has been approached by team BRIT, a motor racing team of disabled drivers looking to make history by becoming the first ever all-disabled team to race in Le Mans.
The team are developing an advanced system that will allow Izzy to race in a specially adapted car – a development that could allow Isabelle to pursue a career in motor racing.
The said: “I am definitely super excited to start learning to race drive 'cause it is something completely different than trampolining but just as challenging and exciting.
“I have never driven a car before, I don’t know how you drive a car. I am the first quadruple amputee driving for the team BRIT.”
Cathy added: Isabelle will make sure, if she wants to do something, she will do it. Whatever it takes. She practices and practices and will practice until there is no obstacle for her.”
Now, Isabelle is focused on overcoming this new challenge, as well as trying to win another trampoline championship.
She said: “I do get negative comments but I think with every negative comment you do get nice comments and I just kind of brush it off, it doesn’t really affect me, I see past it.”
“I was self conscious for a bit, but I started get to a point where I don’t really care what anyone else had to say because I was proud of myself and everything I had done, and knew so many other people were. That was the point where I was really happy and confident In myself.”