The sister of a teenager who died from COVID-19 says she cries herself to sleep every night, as she described the shock of losing her older sibling.
Jorja Halliday, 15, died last Tuesday, hours after being rushed to the Queen Alexandria Hospital in Portsmouth.
Her sister Julie, 12, says she was it was a “complete shock” how quickly her condition deteriorated.
“I was told that she had a lot of back pain, and she was very, very ill. She was very pale like a ghost,” she said.
A medical team tried to save Jorja, but were unable to stabilise her racing heart.
Julie was allowed to visit the hospital to say her final goodbyes.
“We started bursting into tears. We sat down, held her hand and gave her hugs and kisses, and I gave her a matching teddy so me and and her have got matching teddies,” she said.
Jorja had four younger siblings and lived with her mum Tracey in Portsmouth.
It was Tracey’s fortieth birthday last week, but the planned family celebrations were cancelled.
Tracey’s sister, Lucie Atkins, says her “loving, kind and generous” niece was liked by everyone and “an amazing human being”.
Lucie described the last few days as “horrendous”, for the family as they start to plan Jorja’s funeral.
“The shock has come because of how quickly everything progressed. It was out of the blue. She was fit and healthy, and I think it’s a shock that I’ll never get over.”
Jorja was passionate about kick boxing and used to train three times a week.
She had recently started coaching younger members of her club, and was working towards her black belt.
Her former coach, Sohail Chowdhary, from AG Martial Arts, said she was a “role model” for the whole community.
“She was so kind and caring. She was always trying her best. She put in so much attention to helping other people which was the most impressive thing about her,” he said.
Jorja’s death is a rare case, and the risks of COVID-19 to children remain incredibly low.
Her family though feel angry when they hear parents and teenagers being blasé about the virus.
“I think a lot of people don’t release the seriousness of the issue,” Lucie Atkins said.
The family hope they can reassure and remind others why the vaccine is so important.
“If we can save just one person’s life as a result of raising awareness, then Jorja’s death wouldn’t have been in vain,” Lucie added.