The family of the late Rachael Shannon have been left “broken and devastated” following the sudden death of the strong and determined 27-year-old who never let anything hold her back.

Rachael Sarah Shannon, late of Ashley Park, Ballinamallard, passed away peacefully on February 13 at the South West Acute Hospital in the presence of her heartbroken parents after she contracted sepsis.

“It was sudden and unexpected. Rachael had been well up until a week before she died. We just thought she had a stomach bug,” said Rachael’s grief-stricken mother, Wendy, who is still very much in shock following her daughter’s unexpected death.

“I just thought she was going into hospital to get a drip, to get intravenous antibiotics. We did not expect this outcome at all.

“We are absolutely heartbroken. We are devastated. I don’t even think it’s properly hit us. Our life is just never going to be the same without Rachael – she was a huge part of our life,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.

Describing her daughter as a “quiet, gentle person” who had a “very kind and caring nature”, Wendy noted that Rachael loved children and animals.

“Her main love interest in life was the family dog, Stella. That’s what everyone knew her for – out walking her dog around the village. She would stop and speak to people. She’d built up a very good friendship with people,” said her mum, commenting that when Rachael made a friend, they were a “friend for life”.

From the day she was born, Rachael was a warrior.

“She was born with an abnormality, and she embraced it. She never complained about her condition. We treated that as secondary, the family never looked on Rachael as any different,” said Wendy.

Rachael never let her condition define her or hold her back and, supported by an amazing network of family and friends, she was determined to live life to the full.

“Her father, Andy, he had actually given up his career to look after Rachael and get her through her education and years of work. He had done that and allowed me to follow on my career,” said Wendy, who works as a nurse.

For a number of years, Rachael worked at the Encore Steak House in Ballinamallard, which was owned by her auntie and uncle, Helen and Alan Hurst.

During this time, Rachael formed a close relationship with Helen.

“Rachael was a revelation. She was the best worker I had. She didn’t suffer fools gladly when dishes were left,” said Helen. “But if Rachael was in at the sink and she heard a child in the restaurant, she would’ve downed tools and gone out to see the child,” she added with a laugh.

Rachael had a great rapport with children and volunteered for three years with Toddle Inn Nursery in Enniskillen. She also volunteered as a Girl Guide leader, working with the Squirrels section.

“She was a giver. She helped out whenever she could, wherever she could. She gave so much and looked for nothing in return,” remarked Wendy.

The shock of Rachael’s death has rippled through her home village of Ballinamallard, with many locals taking to social media to pay tribute.

Amongst the many tributes to Rachael was a post from Ballinamallard United Football Club – a club with which she was deeply involved throughout her life.

Wendy said: “Rachael loved football and became involved in the Ladies Committee for Ballinamallard United Football Club.

“She was there week in, week out. She helped with the hospitality at the boys’ training on Thursday nights. They loved her.”

Aside from her love of her local football club, Rachael’s main hobby was shopping. “She loved shopping. She was regularly seen in the shopping centre,” said her mum, dubbing Rachael “a serial shopper”.

Rachael took ill on Sunday, February 7. At first, her symptoms were that of a stomach bug, but her family started to grow more concerned after the tips of her fingers turned black. She was taken to hospital and it discovered that she had contracted sepsis, which led to organ failure.

“She was dead for 40 minutes and they brought her back – that’s how determined Rachael was,” said her auntie Helen, who, along with Rachael’s parents Andy and Wendy, was with her when she passed away on Saturday.

“She was so strong and fought like a warrior,” added Wendy, who went on to say how grateful she was to all of the medical staff who tended to her daughter in her final hours.

Rachael’s funeral took place on Wednesday, February 17 at Magheracross Parish Church, Ballinamallard followed by burial at Townhill Cemetery, Irvinestown.

She is remembered by her loving father and mother, Andy and Wendy; brother Harry (Olivia); uncles, aunts and cousins; and her many friends.

“We’re lost. We are going to miss her dreadfully, and I don’t know how we’re going to get through it, but we’re going to have to find strength somewhere, because Rachael’s strength and resilience was amazing. She would put us to shame,” said a devastated Wendy.

“We’re broken,” she told this newspaper.