Skipton pulls together to support rugby-mad boy who has lost his hands and legs to meningitis

Luke Mortimer, from Skipton, is still in Sheffield Children's Hospital
Luke Mortimer, from Skipton, is still in Sheffield Children's Hospital
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A seven-year-old boy has lost limbs to the complications caused by bacterial meningitis after falling ill before Christmas.

Skipton RUFC player Luke Mortimer survived the illness but remains in Sheffield Children's Hospital having had his legs and hands amputated.

The family are well-known in Skipton and in the rugby community, as Luke's father Adam coaches at the club and his mother Christine runs a kit recycling scheme. His 10-year-old brother Harry also plays for Skipton.

Luke's shocked classmates found out about the tragedy when they returned to Water Street Primary School after the Christmas holidays.

A Justgiving page set up by Skipton RUFC player John Firth has now raised over £28,000 to help the Mortimers fund modifications to their home and specialist medical equipment. The money will also support the family financially if Adam, a self-employed builder, is unable to work. Christine works for Skipton Building Society.

Luke fell ill on December 13 and was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis, the most dangerous strain of the disease. It has a fatality rate of up to 20 per cent and can often lead to sepsis. Survivors may suffer lasting long-term effects and many have to have limbs amputated due to gangrene caused by blood poisoning.

He was initially taken to Airedale Hospital but was transferred to Sheffield by the Embrace team, a mobile ambulance unit who transport seriously ill children across Yorkshire.

Luke was placed in an induced coma and was dependent on a ventilator and dialysis machine.

Skipton coach and referee Brian Brocksom, who set up the club's ladies' team with Adam, is leading the fundraising efforts and is planning to hold an auction and raffle.

"At first, we thought a £5,000 target was too much, but every six hours we keep upping it - we've had nearly £30,000 in two days," said Brian, a retired police officer who was been associated with the club for 15 years.

"Adam was supposed to be doing some plastering work on my house when Luke fell ill, so I found out the day he was taken to hospital. Since then, we've kept quiet to respect the family's privacy, but now Adam has gone public about what happened. There has been enormous support for the appeal. The ball started rolling more quickly than I ever imagined and I have been overwhelmed.

"The rugby community is very generous in times like this. I've never fundraised before, but as a police officer I have dealt with families who have been through trauma and I see myself as having a job to do. Their life has been turned upside down. Hopefully the money will mean Luke can go home to a safe and enjoyable environment.

"Luke and Harry have grown up at the club, as Adam and Christine have been involved for years before they were born. They've been coming here since they were babies and the family are part of the make-up of the club.

"At the moment there is no indication of when Luke can come home - the major surgery is over but he may have to have skin grafts. We're not sure whether he will be transferred to a hospital closer to home first."

Rugby clubs across the country are holding collections for Luke this weekend and family friend Gemma Towell is running the notoriously tough 268-mile Montane Spine Race in aid of the Children's Hospital Charity.

The England women's Sevens team also sent a video message in support of Luke from New Zealand, where they are currently competing in the World Sevens Series.

Luke's plight also touched other families whose lives have been affected by meningitis, including a Skipton woman whose sister died from the disease at the age of 15 and recommended the family get in touch with the support charity Meningitis Now, and a woman whose nine-month-old niece survived after she spotted the symptoms while babysitting her.

To donate to the appeal, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-firth