Girl, 15, died after suffering rare inflammation of heart linked to Covid-19, inquest hears

Jorja Halliday died on the day that she was due to have her Covid-19 vaccine, her mum said

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A 15-year-old girl died after deteriorating “astonishingly” quickly after suffering a rare inflammation of the heart linked to Covid-19, an inquest has heard.

Talented kickboxer Jorja Halliday, from Portsmouth, Hampshire, died at the Queen Alexandra Hospital on September 28 2021 after being referred as an emergency by her GP after her heart began beating fast and she struggled to keep food down.

Her mum, Tracey Halliday, has previously said that Jorja died on the day that she was due to have her Covid-19 vaccine.

She told the Portsmouth inquest that Jorja first started to feel unwell in the early hours of September 24 and tested positive that day.

Jorja Halliday
Jorja Halliday

Jorja had a telephone appointment on September 27 with the GP, who prescribed her antibiotics for a sore throat because she had a history of tonsillitis and gave her advice on treating Covid-19 symptoms.

Ms Halliday said that by September 28, Jorja’s condition worsened as she kept vomiting.

She was given a further appointment at the GP’s surgery at lunchtime when all other patients had been dealt with because she was Covid-19 positive.

Jorja had a high heart rate of 147 beats per minute, prompting the GP to send her as an emergency case to hospital.

Ms Halliday said she drove her daughter to hospital because the wait for an ambulance would have been too long.

She said that Jorja’s condition deteriorated quickly and she was being placed in a medically-induced coma in order for her to be transferred to Southampton for specialist care but her condition worsened further and she died about five hours after arriving at hospital.

Dr Nicholas Tarmey, a consultant in intensive care medicine at the Queen Alexandra Hospital who treated Jorja, said she was “really pale”, which was a sign of a cardiovascular problem, rather than a pulmonary problem.

He said: “Apart from the colour, she looked frightened, not just of the situation, she also had a sense something was seriously wrong with her body.

“I think it comes from the amount of adrenaline being released by the body to boost blood pressure that gave her the anxious, frightened feeling.

“Her body was struggling to cope and she was deteriorating very quickly and she looked confused and agitated.”

Dr Tarmey said they began CPR when her blood pressure was so low that they could not feel her pulse.

He added: “We continued to not be able to reverse the situation, which had been the case since she had arrived in hospital.

“Nothing had made any difference to the decline of the functioning of her heart, sadly. There was nothing anyone could do.”

Jorja Halliday
Jorja Halliday

Dr Tarmey said: “There are not many illnesses that lead to a deterioration as quickly as that and it is horrible.”

Explaining that myocarditis was extremely rare as a result of Covid-19 in children, he said: “We presume it was the Covid that was the virus causing the inflammation of the heart muscle.

“I haven’t treated any other children with Covid as the cause of myocarditis, that is in keeping with how rare it is.

“I am sure as a percentage of all the children who catch Covid it is extremely rare.”

When asked by Ms Halliday if Jorja would have suffered a less severe reaction if she had received a Covid-19 vaccination, Dr Tarmey said: “I really do not know as it’s such an unusual situation.

“We know having a Covid jab reduces risk of severe complication, we think that it trains the immune system.

“I suppose having a Covid jab might reduce the risk of these complications but I am extrapolating that from the benefits we know.”

The inquest heard that Jorja had suffered from Kawasaki disease as a young child which can have long-term vascular effects but she had been given the all-clear and the coroner ruled out a link.

Consultant paediatric pathologist Samantha Holden gave a cause of death of acute myocarditis associated with Covid-19 infection and added: “She was the only child I have seen that has Covid myocarditis.”

Giving a verdict of natural causes, coroner Sarah Whitby said Jorja’s condition had deteriorated “astonishingly” quickly.

She added: “Despite the swift action taken by her mother and the concentrated medical involvement, she deteriorated rapidly and she died later that day due to Covid complications.”

Speaking after the inquest, Ms Halliday said she would never know if the vaccination would have saved her daughter’s life.

She said: “It’s always going to be a question in my mind, would the outcome have been different.

“Also if we had been seen in person the day before, it’s a lot of what ifs, questions that cannot ever be answered.

“Whatever happened, the outcome was inevitable, whatever interventions they had done.”

Ms Halliday encouraged people to consider getting a Covid-19 vaccination, and added: “Covid can do this to fit and healthy young people, however rare it is, it can happen.

“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and make their own choice, it’s a personal choice.”

Ms Halliday has previously said that Jorja, a GCSE student at The Portsmouth Academy, was a “loving girl”, a talented kickboxer and an aspiring musician.

She 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.”

Ms Halliday 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.”