A devastated twin is heartbroken after her ‘beautiful’ teenage sister died from killer flu when she fell ill on Christmas Day.
Engineering student Melissa Whiteley, 18, could barely walk and tests revealed she was suffering from sepsis, flu, pneumonia and a fungal infection.
The teenager, from Hanford, Staffordshire, was placed in an induced coma but did not recover and died one month later.
She passed away at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester surrounded by her loved-ones – including her twin sister Megan – on January 27.
Fighting back tears, Megan told The Sentinel: ‘It’s broken me, I don’t know what I’ll do without her.
‘We did everything together and that’s now been taken away from me. She was funny, we had a lot of banter. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister.’
Now her devastated parents are warning others to not delay going to hospital if they have flu-like symptoms.
Her mother Sharon Whiteley, a 53-year-old Portmeirion worker, said: ‘We couldn’t believe it.
‘We thought when we went to Leicester it would have a positive outcome but in the days leading up to it you don’t want to give in but we knew it wasn’t getting any better.
‘You don’t want it to be the end and you don’t want to let go but you can’t be cruel.
‘We knew that if you just have a cold, they don’t want you in A&E because you could pass more germs on or could waste their time but I would say to anyone if you’re not sure, go. You’re not wasting time, make sure and get it checked out.’
Her father Mark Whiteley, a 50-year-old HGV driver, added: ‘I couldn’t really control my emotions at that point.
‘Watching the colour going out of her lips and watching the heartbeat go down it was unreal.
‘She was so much fun. She always on the go and had a great sense of humour. She had great banter with her twin sister – she was the happiest person and she had so much to live for.
‘She had passed her driving test in May, she had bought her car. It was the best year she ever had.
‘The team at Leicester we couldn’t fault at all. I would like there to have more awareness of these symptoms, families as well as staff members at hospitals.’
Melissa’s boyfriend, Ben Pepper, also paid tribute to the ‘happiest person he had ever known’.
The 18-year-old electrician, from Trentham, said: ‘We were only together for six months but I had known her since Year Seven – we’ve always been close.
‘She made loads of plans to do loads of things such as going to Dubai, buying a new house and a new car.
‘When she died I didn’t know how I was going to take it, it has made me realise just how much I cared about her.’
Melissa had been studying engineering at Newcastle-under-Lyme College.
Principal and chief executive Karen Dobson said: ‘The entire college community is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Melissa. Melissa joined the college, along with her sister Megan, in 2015.
‘She had many friends and her hard working and eager approach earned her the respect of her lecturers.
‘Melissa had a real determination to get on and do well and she was an inspiration to other young females looking for a career in engineering.
‘The thoughts of everyone connected with NULC are with Melissa’s family and friends at this very sad time.’
It comes just days after a heartbroken family released pictures of their nine-year-old son who is believed to be the youngest person to die from the flu in the UK this winter.
Coby Simons, from Exeter, passed away on January 24 – two days after being struck down with the killer virus.
Public Health England at the time confirmed the gifted maths pupil tested positive for flu. He becomes the sixth victim across the UK to have been named.
The deadly flu outbreak has claimed at least 231 lives in the UK this winter, but is now on the decline as cases have peaked and are now ‘stabilising’.
A fund-raising campaign has now been launched to raise money to meet the costs of Melissa’s funeral and for the hospital where she was treated.
For details, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/melissa-whiteley