Luke Mortimer was just seven years old when, in December 2019, he and his family were told the devasting news that he would lose both his arms after he contracted meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia. Within a few days, he lost both legs at the knee as well and is now a quad amputee.
After Luke came out of hospital, the family moved to a bungalow in North Yorkshire, which needed a significant renovation to make life easier for Luke.
On 13th December 2019, Luke fell ill and was rushed to hospital, where he was diagnosed with type Y meningococcal meningitis – a rare but serious bacterial infection that causes the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. Almost immediately, he was transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, as septicaemia had set in.
After the removal of his limbs, Luke underwent many more surgeries to cover what had survived with a covering of skin; 50% of his body had no skin, so the remaining 50% had to be donor skin. To get him healed and to minimise infection, he went to theatre Monday, Wednesday and Friday to have painful skin grafts and dressing changes. In-between these surgeries, there was physio, psychological therapy, occupational therapy, and lots and lots of doctors and consultants prodding, poking and checking. Luke had 23 surgeries over a ten-week period.
He spent nearly five months in hospital before he was able go home.
Since then, Luke’s story has been nothing short of remarkable. He has endured endless sessions of physiotherapy and rehabilitation with a trademark beaming smile. He has learned to walk – and run – on prosthetics. And, thanks to fundraising and donations from an army of well-wishers, he has received the first of his robotic ‘hero’ arms to allow him to do more for himself. The cost is approaching £15,000, and they have to be replaced every two years while Luke is still growing.
His family have been overwhelmed by the support and all the different fundraising activities that continue to take place for Luke.
Luke has become something of a celebrity and featured in a film that was broadcast on BBC’s Children in Need last November, where he talked about his challenges and how Skipton charity SELFA – which gets funding from Children in Need – has helped him and his family.
Rugby-mad Luke – who was chosen as the mascot for the England v South Africa game in the Autumn Nations Series – starred in a documentary series about the human body that aired on Channel 4 last April.
Luke’s dad Adam is a builder, and although he had started work on making adaptations to the family home, he reached out to Band of Builders for help.
The project required extensive work, including lowering the ceilings; rewiring; replastering; and insulation to bedrooms, the kitchen and hallways. One of the key elements was underfloor heating, as Luke and his older brother Harry spend a lot of time on the floor.
The story of Luke’s plight captured the public’s imagination and appeared in national newspapers, in magazines, on radio and on TV – including Luke being interviewed by Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond on ITV’s This Morning.