Trans­plant and foot­ball saved El­lie

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Sheri­dan Robins

AT just 16, El­lie Wilkin­son was liv­ing her dream as she stepped out for Manch­ester City and es­tab­lished her­self as a reg­u­lar in the Eng­land U17 squad.

But, two years ago, her world was turned up­side down when she was di­ag­nosed with a lifethreat­en­ing dis­ease.

It was just be­fore the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in 2013 that El­lie knew some­thing wasn’t right but she blamed it on a lack of fit­ness.

“I re­mem­ber I had a game for Man City against Notts County and I just could not play,” she told Women’s Foot­ball

Weekly.

“My legs wouldn’t let me and I just cried. We were go­ing away with Eng­land the next day and I just knew some­thing was wrong. Be­fore that, I’d put it down to lack of fit­ness and went on ex­tra runs.

“If I hadn’t put my body through that, I might never have picked up what was wrong and nei­ther would the doc­tors. In ev­ery way, foot­ball saved my life.”

Af­ter vis­it­ing a spe­cial­ist, El­lie was di­ag­nosed with dysker­ato­sis – a rare blood dis­or­der which causes bone mar­row fail­ure – and was im­me­di­ately put on the list for a donor.

If left un­treated it would have de­stroyed her im­mune sys­tem and or­gans.

Luck­ily, a per­fect match was found, but that was only part of the bat­tle for the young striker.

She then con­tracted menin­gi­tis and was in hos­pi­tal for a month. El­lie said: “Due to risk of in­fec­tion, only my im­me­di­ate fam­ily could visit me. It was a really tough time but the main thing is I got a donor, which is never a guar­an­tee.

“Of course I had my dark days but from the start I was al­ways go­ing to get back to play­ing foot­ball.”

Doc­tors are as­tounded by the quick progress she has made since the trans­plant a year ago.

“Ev­ery­one keeps say­ing to me how quickly I have re­cov­ered but all I can say is that is again due to my foot­ball,” she said.

“Be­fore my trans­plant I had a mil­lion checks on ev­ery­thing and all my other or­gans were un­be­liev­ably fit and healthy.

“As soon as I felt bet­ter, I rang Man City and they in­vited me back to train­ing.

Pos­i­tive

“I was wor­ried about be­ing be­hind, but I have been train­ing with the Eng­land girls re­cently. Toni Dug­gan and Izzy Chris­tiansen are some of the best play­ers about and to be able to get my fit­ness back with them is truly in­cred­i­ble.”

El­lie’s pos­i­tive at­ti­tude is cou­pled with a clear de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed and be­come one of the Lionesses once again.

Since her ill­ness, she has seen the women’s game ex­plode and wants more than any­thing to be a part of that.

“I was ner­vous at first but what bet­ter way to get back into train­ing than throw­ing your­self in at the deep end,” she added.

“I feel way bet­ter than I did be­fore. I couldn’t con­cen­trate on the game, due to be­ing in so much pain. Now, the women’s game has grown and I am feel­ing well. I just have to go for monthly check-ups but it’s a small price to pay.

“A couple of clubs have been in touch, so who knows where I will end up but I am just grate­ful to be back in the game. I just want some play­ing time.

“By next year I am go­ing to be in the Eng­land squad.”

PIC­TURE: The FA

GOALS: El­lie Wilkin­son has set her­self an Eng­land tar­get

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