Charlotte Nott: From Pretty in Pink to Blending In

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By Laura Fonda Hochnadel
Charlotte on carousel horse

Charlotte Nott, age seven, first captured media attention shortly after she contracted meningitis and then developed septicemia in mid- December 2010. She spent six weeks in John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, England-16 days of which were in ICU. Because of the effects of her illnesses, Charlotte had to undergo bilateral transtibial and bilateral transradial amputations on January 4, 2011. Her mother, Jenny Daniels, says "that was the start of her recovery." At the time, Charlotte was weeks shy of her third birthday.

After her recovery, Charlotte was fitted with prosthetic legs through National Health Service, England's publicly funded healthcare system. She tried to walk in them for 14 months, her mother says, but they didn't fit properly and were uncomfortable. Instead, she resorted to maneuvering around on her knees. Through fundraising efforts, the family was able to purchase specially made prosthetic legs, which Charlotte received in July 2012. The prostheses offered "fantastic function and comfort," Daniels says. In fact, Charlotte was able to use them for 12 hours each day.

Now Charlotte is in second grade. She is the oldest child of Daniels and Alex Nott, and a big sister to five-year-old George, and three-year-old Libby. Like many girls her age, she likes to dance, swim, ride her bicycle, listen to music, and do arts and crafts. "Currently she loves making Loom Bands," Daniels says, adding that her daughter's favorite subjects in school are art and design and physical education. "She has an extraordinary imagination and loves to create and draw. She also has a secret diary, which she loves [to write in]."

Charlotte engaged in various activities

Charlotte enjoys the ability to play in different environments; the silicone prosthetic covers are durable.

As Charlotte grows, not only do her parents have to contend with replacing clothing she has outgrown, but also with getting prostheses to accommodate her growth. She outgrows her prostheses every nine to 12 months, and hers are particularly complicated to fabricate since they must accommodate the special characteristics of her residual limbs.

"Charlotte's fittings will always be complex," says David Hills, who has been Charlotte's prosthetist since she was three years old. "Charlotte has very short and heavily scarred transtibial residual limbs...," he explains, adding that she has to undergo surgery every year to have her bones trimmed, and she may even need them lengthened in the future. So far she's had more than 25 operations and has also been hospitalized multiple times with bone infections.

Despite the challenges Charlotte contends with, "she is a very determined girl who is always a pleasure to see in the clinic," says Hills, who is the managing director of Dorset Orthopaedic, based in Bournemouth, England.

Media Darling

Charlotte remains in the spotlight. She has been the beneficiary of additional fundraising events; the recipient of aid in the form of prostheses, specially adapted toys, and a home remodel to accommodate her special needs; the star of YouTube videos; and the darling of news stories that follow her medical progress and childhood milestones. For her fourth birthday, in January 2012, Charlotte received a specially adapted Nintendo Wii, with funding assistance provided by her favorite soccer team, Oxford United. The media cameras followed her as she attended her first day of school in September 2012. A few months later, just in time for Christmas, she received new prosthetic legs thanks to an anonymous donor-they were pink and sparkly.

Charlotte running on beach

In March 2013, Charlotte received running blades, which she has since outgrown. According to an article in the Oxford Mail, her father placed a £50 bet on her winning a gold medal in the Paralympics when she is older. That July, the cameras were there when she went on a playdate with another little girl, five years her elder, who also underwent quadruple amputations in January 2011 due to meningitis. The two were in the ICU at the same time, which is when the families first met. Then, in December 2013, the charitable foundation that was set up in her name was able to raise the funds to purchase a tricycle for Charlotte; it was custom-painted pink. She was going to receive a tricycle for Christmas 2011, but instead fell ill. She had been asking for one ever since.

This past year was also busy for Charlotte and her family. In August 2014, Charlotte was the first girl to be fitted with Easyfit Junior silicone cosmetic covers. As she has gotten older, Charlotte has expressed a desire to have more realistic-looking legs.

"Charlotte is growing up, and although she has had various legs in the past...such as her pink, sparkly legs and her running blades, to name a few, she was beginning to wish for a more realistic appearance," Daniels explains. The Easyfit Junior is produced by Dorset Orthopaedic; they are fabricated in a variety of sizes, taking into account foot size and ankle/calf circumference, Hills explains, adding that "they have proved to be durable with all of the children and adults we have fitted."

"Charlotte loves her new 'realistic' legs," Daniels says. "This is the first time she has had silicone legs, and she loves them. It has already boosted her confidence as she feels less self-conscious of them, but they don't stop her [from] doing what she likes. Charlotte is really active and loves the beach, so her newest legs are great as she can even play in the sand with them on."

Adding to the family's whirlwind was the refurbishment of Daniel's home in September 2014 to make it more accessible for Charlotte. Among the fixes are new wheelchair ramps at both entrances, a specially designed bathroom, redesigned stairs, a new layout of the ground floor, and new carpet and flooring.

2015 promises to be an equally busy year. It started with Charlotte turning seven in January. She also had to endure another surgery, this one to remove a cyst. And this spring, Charlotte is to be measured for 3D-printed prosthetic hands.

Even in the face of her celebrity status of sorts, she remains unfazed. "Charlotte takes everything in her stride and is a very normal little girl," Daniels says. "She has a very large circle of friends. In fact, this includes most of the children in her school, but her best friend is Lizzie. They love to get together and play and draw and talk and dance."

Laura Fonda Hochnadel can be reached at .