By PAUL SIMS
Here's how to do it: Ellie (right) shows off her new prosthetic leg to Charlotte, who hopes to get her first pair in a few months
Smiling together, the two pretty blonde girls could easily be mistaken as sisters, not new friends with a unique bond.
The lives of Ellie Challis and Charlotte Nott have taken almost identical paths. Both started life as healthy babies — until they contracted meningitis and had to have all of their limbs amputated.
The incredible survival story of Ellie, now seven, gripped the nation after she fell ill in 2005 at just 16 months old. And in December, three-year-old Charlotte narrowly survived the illness, but at the cost of her arms and legs.
Hello, pet: Seven-year-old Ellie, who contracted meningitis in 2005, makes friends with the lambs during a day at a farm
‘Charlotte put her stumps up against Ellie’s to say hello,’ said her mother Jenny Daniels, 29, yesterday. ‘She was so happy to see someone else with stumps just like hers.
‘Ellie was great — she showed Charlotte that she could get around easily with or without prosthetic legs and Charlotte hobbled after her. It was very special.’
The girls spent the day giggling with one another as they cuddled rabbits and fed lambs at Mead Open Farm in Bedfordshire.
‘I love Ellie’s legs and I can’t wait until I get some, too, so we can run around together,’ said Charlotte, from Oxford.
You have a go: Little Ellie is all smiles as she shows a curious Charlotte how to operate the wheelchair
Ellie’s parents Lisa, 37, and Paul, 47, have helped her learn to walk on prosthetics, start school and ride a bike. ‘I know exactly what Jenny is going through,’ said Mrs Challis.
‘I remember thinking that Ellie would never have a normal life. But it’s great that we’ve been able to show Charlotte and her family that there’s very little Ellie can’t do.’
Charlotte’s parents - Jenny, an administrator for a book publisher, and air conditioning repairman Alex Nott, also 29 - are just starting to come to terms with what has happened to their daughter.
I'll race you: Charlotte (left) and Ellie giggle together as they get behind the wheels of toy cars
‘When Charlotte caught meningitis, my world fell apart. I was terrified about what the future held for her,’ said Miss Daniels.
‘So to see Ellie running around was so special to me - it has given me hope for Charlotte’s future.’
Ellie became the youngest person ever fitted with £10,000 carbon ‘flex-foot’ legs two years ago.
Ellie also let Charlotte have a go on her wheelchair - it is too tiring for her to use her prosthetic legs all the time. She controls it with the stumps of her arms.
Charlotte will have to wait until she is five before the NHS can provide her with a wheelchair.
She hopes to get her first pair of prosthetic limbs in the next few months once her wounds heal.
‘I still say thank you every day that Charlotte is still here with us,’ said Miss Daniels.
‘Watching her playing with Ellie was a miracle.’