MATHEW Johnstone was a young sports star with the world at his feet.
A key member of Havant Rugby Club’s under-16s team, he also played tennis at county level.
But last year the 17-year-old’s promising sporting career was cut short after he was struck down with meningitis.
While he survived the potentially-lethal disease, it left him paralysed from the waist down and now he has to use a wheelchair.
But he hopes one day to get back on his feet.
Mathew, from Warsash, said: ‘I hope there can be a chance of me playing sport again some day.
‘You don’t realise how lucky you are until something like this happens to you.
‘I don’t take anything in my life for granted now.’
Mathew was diagnosed with meningococcal Y and septicaemia – a rare form of meningitis – last October.
After spending five months in hospital undergoing intensive physiotherapy, he now hopes to finish his A-levels at King Edward VI School, in Southampton.
The condition has brought an end to his playing days at Havant Rugby Club, which he had played for since the age of seven.
Sport fanatic Mathew also played rugby for his school team.
Mathew said: ‘It had always been my passion to play rugby.
‘For me, it was a great way to socialise and I really enjoyed playing because I got to be with my friends.
‘I hope they don’t change the way they see me.’
Mathew is now helping to raise awareness of meningitis, leading a week-long awareness campaign with charity, Meningitis UK.
Yesterday, he joined the charity at Asda, in Bedhampton, to warn customers about the symptoms.
Father Alan Johnstone, 56, said: ‘Mathew was a fit lad but all that changed. He’s still got a long way to go and it makes you value the importance of good health.
‘As a family we want to do as much as we can to support this campaign.’
Mum Amanda Johnstone, 48, said staff at Queen Alexandra Hospital had saved her son’s life.
She said: ‘I cannot praise QA enough for the quality of care they gave us.
‘Now we just want to see Mathew continue to recover.’
Steve Dayman, founder of Meningitis UK, said: ‘Mathew is an inspiration to us all. Many people don’t survive this disease.’