Horror stories from behind the thin hospital curtains

They are meant to provide us with privacy and comfort when we are at our most vulnerable — ill or injured, and often alone, in hospital.

But the thin, dreary curtains supposed to shelter patients from their surroundings don’t always shield them from cruel barbs or insensitive comments from medics — as some patients have heartbreakingly learnt.

Sharing their horrifying stories in brutal detail, one MailOnline reader told how their father received a cancer diagnosis after overhearing loud-mouthed nurses refer to him as ‘the one with leukaemia’.

Another tale revealed how parents were forced to endure staff laughter as they said their final goodbye to their dying child.

Some heartless comments were so devastating that one family said their loved one had almost lost the will to live.

A family was forced to say goodbye to five-year-old son, Muhammad Ayaan Haroon, as medical staff in the same room at Sheffield Children’s Hospital laughed in the background

The father said only a thin curtain stood between the laughing doctors and nurses, who had previously treated Ayaan as they watched him take his final breath

The father said only a thin curtain stood between the laughing doctors and nurses, who had previously treated Ayaan as they watched him take his final breath

Muhammad Ayaan Haroon: Staff laughed as my son died 

Muhammad Ayaan Haroon’s grieving parents detailed how hospital staff laughed while their little boy’s life support was switched off.

Only a thin curtain stood between them and the laughing medics as they watched their son take his final breath.

Ayaan had been admitted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital on March 5 with trouble breathing.

He had a history of respiratory illnesses and a rare genetic condition called Hace 1, which caused developmental delays. He died on March 13.

His father Haroon Rashid, a taxi driver and father-of-four, said: ‘When the machine was switched off at 2.30am we had a lot of family members there.

‘There was laughter coming from staff members. We were so upset.

‘There was no one else on the ward apart from staff and one other small child behind the curtain from us.’

Mr Rashid, 41, added: ‘Surely the staff knew Ayaan’s machine was about to be turned off. They continued laughing after my relative asked them to stop.

‘A child’s life was coming to an end.’

Officials at Sheffield Children’s Hospital pledged a ‘thorough’ investigation into the family’s claims.

Robert Arthur Venson: ‘The one with leukaemia’

Being told ‘you have cancer’ is one of the most frightening things a person can ever hear. Hearing it spawns a thousand other questions. How far has it spread? Can it be treated? Am I going to die?

Such a conversation should always happen in private, with a doctor ready to guide their patient through the questions, offering them both honest and compassionate answers.

But for Robert Venson, 75, who was a senior representative for British Telecom, this wasn’t the case.

Robert Arthur Venson, from Portsmouth, died from leukaemia when he was 75 in 1997

Gail Hugman, 70, from Essex, revealed the very sad account of how her father, Mr Venson, was first told of his diagnosis

Reflecting on her father’s death in 1997, Gail Hugman, from Essex, revealed the shocking reality of how he found out his diagnosis.

The now 70-year-old said: ‘He was waiting to find out what was wrong with him.

‘And while he was waiting in bed to hear his diagnosis. He overheard the nurses talking and one said “oh he is the one with leukaemia”.’

‘That’s how he found out he had acute myeloid leukaemia.

‘He got his diagnosis officially from the doctor later on who said he would be dead in three months if they didn’t do something.

She added that when Mr Venson, of Portsmouth, heard the nurses, he went as ‘white as a ghost’.

Laura Higginson: ‘She is obviously a coke head’

Before her death in 2017, Laura Higginson, from Cambridge, spent five years in and out of hospital.

She had a condition called Gitelman’s syndrome, a kidney function disorder which causes an imbalance of minerals in the body and causes fatigue, muscle weakness and heart palpitations. It meant she needed highly personalised care.

Fighting a rare disease is hard enough, but it can be made even more difficult when NHS staff blame your symptoms on being an alleged drug addict.

Her family allege she was torn down ‘brick by brick’ by gossiping nurses and doctors who, they claim, passed horrific judgement on the trainee solicitor as she lay inches away fighting for her life.

Laura, a trainee solicitor, had been diagnosed with Gitelman’s syndrome in 2012

Her husband Dr Antony Higginson, an expert in computer science, claimed doctors accused his then 25-year-old wife of being a ‘coke head’ and ‘making up’ her symptoms.

The ex-soldier, from Widnes, told MailOnline: ‘The consultant said “she is making it up, give her some painkillers and get her out of here as soon as we can.” Laura heard him dismiss her.

‘Another time we were in A&E and one doctor closed the curtain and turned around and said “she is obviously a coke head”.

‘When he came back to us he asked her if she takes any drugs or if she starves herself. And she went “I just heard you say that you think I am a coke head”.

‘She was looking to me like “what is the point in me coming to hospital when everyone thinks I am starving myself and that I am a druggie and that I am making it up”.

‘It tore her apart brick by brick.’

Laura died aged 30 in 2017 from sepsis and multiple organ failure.

Margaret Thomson: ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ 

Margaret Thomson was just inches away from doctors while they allegedly debated whether they would try to save her if she needed CPR.

The 81-year-old, originally from Scotland, was in hospital following a stroke.

‘Do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ (DNACPR) is a phrase doctors use when they decide not to give a patient CPR when their heart stops.

Emma's grandmother Margaret Thomson died aged 81 after she struggled to recover from a stroke in 2019

Emma’s grandmother Margaret Thomson died aged 81 after she struggled to recover from a stroke in 2019

When deciding if a patient should have a DNACPR notice, they or their family should be involved in the decision.

But according to the NHS the decision that can be made by your doctor even if you do not agree.

A DNACPR notice is usually given when a doctor feels that resuscitation is unlikely to be successful or may even cause a severe decline in the patient’s quality of life.

Usually patients who have this notice are receiving end of life care.

Margaret’s granddaughter Emma Thomson, 33, from Essex, said: ‘I feel like with old people they don’t really care. They don’t get the care that they should do.

‘It’s almost like they think they are nearly dead soon so they don’t really bother.

‘That is the experience I’ve had with my grandparents for the last four years.

‘When my nan was in hospital they would talk about things such as DNR behind the curtain and she would hear the things like that.’

Emma also has her own experiences of care in the NHS having worked in admin in a hospital in 2020.

Reflecting on her own experiences in the health service she revealed one incident of how a physiotherapist treated a patient appallingly.

She said: ‘There was a guy who had a severe brain injury and he was in rehab. He would make really loud noises all day long.

‘The physiotherapist was walking past saying “shut up, shut up, shut up”.

‘This member of staff was like this quite often and I had to complain about him.

‘It was on the ward and I was walking past so all the patients would have heard him too’.

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