Quadruple Amputee Teen Reunites with Her Idol, a Dolphin Named Winter

Elise Solé
Ellie Challis, who lost her arms and legs to a severe case of meningitis, has a special bond with a dolphin named Winter. (Photo: Clearwater Marine Aquarium)

A 13-year-old girl who lost her arms and legs to meningitis as a toddler got the chance to reunite with her idol: a dolphin.

When she was 16-months-old, Ellie Challis, a teen from Essex, England developed meningitis, a potential deadly condition that causes brain swelling. While Ellie recovered after a three-week struggle for her life, she had both arms and legs removed and was fitted with prosthetics.

Ellie has the support of her twin sister Sophie and parents Paul and Lisa Challis, however one of her biggest inspirations is Winter, an 11-year-old female Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who was fitted with a prosthetic tail after she became entangled in a crab trap as a baby. Winter’s life was depicted in the 2011 film Dolphin Tale, and when Ellie realized it was a true story, she knew she had to meet Winter face-to-face at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida.

Ellie Challis. (Photo: Clearwater Marine Aquarium)

Yahoo Beauty did not hear back from the Challis family for comment however Julia Anderson, a spokesperson for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, tells Yahoo Beauty of the May 31st visit, “This was Ellie’s third time meeting Winter and they had a great day together. Their friendship has even inspired Ellie to learn to swim better with the hopes of competing in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.”

Of Winter, Ellie told Tampa local news station WTSP, “It’s really weird because she is the only one in the world to have no tail. A dolphin to have no tail. She survived and all that. It’s just really amazing.”

Swimming is just another check off Ellie’s bucket list. According to a story published by the Daily Mail, Ellie climbs trees, plays football, and even runs races with the help — or sometimes not — of her prosthetic legs and arms, which have movable hands.

Anderson tells Yahoo Beauty that Paul describes his daughter as a “get out of bed person” and has never once felt sorry for herself. “When we asked Ellie what her advice would be to other kids with disabilities,” says Anderson, “She answered, ‘To try new things.'”

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