Kayleigh Glenn's presents had been wrapped and placed lovingly under the Christmas tree at her family's Solihull home.

But the 18-year-old died ten days before she could open the gifts, after she was suddenly taken ill last Thursday.

The teenager, who was born with scoliosis - a crippling condition which left her spine so bent that it crushed her organs and left her unable to eat properly - was admitted to the Heartlands Hospital's high dependency unit at 1.30pm with a fever and severe vomiting.

She died the following day at 8.55pm after suffering two cardiac arrests.

Now, in the week before Christmas, Kayleigh's family must cope with planning a funeral which is expected to be attended by hundreds of doctors, nurses, friends and fund-raisers who have been touched by her story.

Kayleigh's plight was highlighted in April 2001 when an operation to correct her spine at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford went wrong, causing a metal rod to become dislodged and protrude through her back.

After months of fundraising she was flown to a specialist centre in America for another operation, which successfully straightened her back.

Last night her mother Karen Glenn, who lives in Olton, paid tribute to her daughter and praised the medical team who fought to try and save her life.

Sobbing, Mrs Glenn said: "Everyone is utterly devastated by what has happened, because nobody expected Kayleigh to die, not like this.

"She had had pneumonia and similar infections before and always managed to see them off, to bounce back, and everybody expected her to pull through again.

"But when the hospital called at 5.30am on Friday, I was told to go to the unit straight away because they didn't think she would last much longer."

Kayleigh, who would have celebrated her 19th birthday next month, had been to Reynolds Cross School on Wednesday and came home feeling unwell.

The next day she felt much worse, so Mrs Glenn called her consultant who said to bring her in straight away.

"She had one cardiac arrest 30 seconds after she was moved on to a ventilator, then a second one later and the doctors managed to resuscitate her," said her mother.

Medics were unable to move Kayleigh to the intensive care unit because they feared her heart could not cope with being transferred, so a children's ward was cleared at Heartlands where the teenager was able to die peacefully, with her family around her.

Mrs Glenn added: "I'm glad she's finally free of the pain but I'm utterly devastated."

Kayleigh's mother also hopes her death will highlight the constant struggle many terminally ill or disabled patients face in getting prompt treatment.

Among her well-wishers is singer George Michael, who sent Kayleigh a massive bouquet for her 18th birthday on January 25. His latest album is among the Christmas presents.