Coronavirus in Portsmouth: Tributes as kickboxer Jorja Halliday, 15, dies with Covid on the day she was due to get vaccine
A TEENAGE kickboxer who died with Covid-19 on the day she was due to get her vaccine has been hailed by friends as courageous and outgoing.
Grieving family members and classmates have paid tribute to Buckland 15-year-old Jorja Halliday who leaves behind four younger siblings.
Aspiring musician Jorja, a GCSE student at The Portsmouth Academy, died at Queen Alexandra Hospital on Tuesday after being tested for the virus on Friday.
Her mum Tracey Halliday, 40, said she broke the news to Jorja’s devastated siblings who are rallying to support each other in grief.
Jorja was ‘loved all round,’ Tracey said. ‘She was a loving girl and she had lots of friends.
‘She was very active, she liked to go out and spend time with her friends and loved spending time with her brothers and sisters.
‘Growing up she turned into a beautiful young lady, always wanting to help others, always there for everybody when they needed them.’
She added: ‘It’s heart wrenching because your kids are always meant to outlive you, and that’s the one thing I can’t get over.’
Her sister Julie, 12, said she was a ‘lovely sister’ while her eldest brother Kallum, six, has written a poem about her and told his mum: ‘I miss Jorja.’
Daisie, four, knows that Jorja is ‘sleeping’ but is ‘not under any impression she’s going to wake up,’ Tracey said. Little Oscar, 18 months, is too young to understand.
Tracey said: ‘I like to think of myself as a thinker, I like to keep busy but I do take some time for myself and grieve with the children.
‘But then on my own, when they’ve gone to bed, and when I get the reminders throughout the day, I burst into tears.’
Tracey has urged her children to keep talking about Jorja, even if people are upset.
‘With the younger children I don’t want them to think they can’t talk about her,’ she said.
‘I’ve explained to Kallum that we want to talk about Jorja because we will always remember her.’
Year 11 pupil Jorja, who is remembered as courageous and outgoing by friends, was studying music, art and Spanish at school.
She felt unwell with flu-like symptoms on Friday and underwent a PCR test.
By Saturday her result came back positive for Covid, with her isolating in her bedroom at the family home in Buckingham Green.
She was struggling to eat on Sunday but by Monday she couldn’t eat at all due to her throat hurting. Her mum called a doctor who prescribed antibiotics.
The next evening she could not keep water down. She was seen by a doctor who said her heart rate was double what it should be - and she was taken to QA.
Tracey said: ‘They realised how serious it was and I was still allowed to touch her, hold her hand, hug her and everything else.
‘They did allow me that. I’m at the point where I can’t comprehend that it’s happened.
‘I was with her the whole time. They tried to put her on a ventilator to give her body a chance to recover. Her heart rate didn’t stabilise. Her heart couldn’t take the strain.
‘They worked as well as I think they could medically but were unable to save her.’
She added: ‘She had the best of care, I know that they did everything they could to save her.’
Tracey worries children are too ‘blase’ about the virus, and that adults think children will simply recover.
‘She was going to have the jab on Tuesday,’ Tracey said. ‘But because she tested positive on Saturday she was isolating. When her isolation period was over she was going to get it.
‘The day that she passed away was the day that she would have had it done.’
Some 57.3 per cent of children aged 16-17 have received one dose of the vaccine in Portsmouth, compared to 54.5 per cent in England.
Preliminary results from QA’s medical examiner indicate Jorja had Covid myocarditis, heart inflammation caused by the virus.
Her grandmother Julia Halliday, 62, added: ‘She was everything.’
Jorja is survived by her grandfather George Halliday, 53, aunt Lucie Atkins, 41, and 13-year-old niece Grace Barrett.
‘A role model to so many’
Martial arts trainer Badr Bahaj, who runs AG Martial Arts where Jorja trained, said she was a ‘role model’ to other students.
He said: ‘She was good to the point where she was so good at what she did she could actually assist the instructors in their classes.
‘She was assisting the kids – we’ve got over 100 members in Portsmouth and she was their at most classes.
‘All the kids knew her and loved her and she was a role model to so many. It’s a shame and absolutely gutting.
‘Jorja was one of the children that really did develop and thrive in our club.
‘She wanted to teach it when she was older. She also had a passion for learning and martial arts was no exception.
‘It’s devastating, it’s going to break so many hearts. She’s someone we’ll never forget. She’s one of the star students.’
‘We are desperately sad’
Rachel Grey, principal of The Portsmouth Academy, said: ‘We are desperately sad about the tragic death of one of our much-loved students, Jorja Halliday. At this incredibly sad time, our hearts go out to her family, whom Jorja loved dearly.
‘Jorja was a kind-hearted, principled and passionate young person who was enormously popular among her peers in Year 11 and across the whole school. She was, indeed, a friend to us all. She stood up for community values and was an excellent student, especially talented in art.
‘Our school community is united in our grief and in deep shock. We are pulling together during this very difficult time, including providing our students with all the support they need, including through our specialist pastoral teams.’