Terminally ill mum ‘refused toilet access’ at Costa Coffee despite feeling sick
Nicky Hughes says she was was denied access to the toilets at a Costa when she felt unwell despite having terminal cancer (Image: Nicky Hughes/BPM MEDIA)
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A mum who has terminal cancer "burst into tears" after allegedly being denied access to the toilets at Costa despite feeling sick.
Nicky Hughes who was an oncology nurse practitioner at the Royal Derby Hospital, says the incident in Costa Coffee at Nottingham's Victoria Centre, was "really, really upsetting".
The 45-year-old has now moved to the city centre but was not able to take on the new job she was meant to start at Queen's Medical Centre. The leukaemia she was diagnosed with five years ago "took hold" and is now terminal.
She is now receiving palliative care through blood transfusions and antibiotics, and in her own words is "getting on with it", reports Nottinghamshire Live.
After picking up a prescription on Tuesday (November 24) and running errands, Ms Hughes felt she was going to vomit – a side effect of the cancer due to the damage to her kidneys.
But when she asked to use the toilets in a nearby Costa, she says she was told to buy a drink or prove her illness.
Nicky said she just doesn't want anyone else to be given this treatment
(Image: Nicky Hughes/BPM MEDIA)
The mum-of-one told Nottinghamshire Live: "Normally I don't go anywhere but I had just gone to pick up a prescription at the Boots pharmacy, and then nipped into Tesco to get some bread.
"But I suddenly felt I was going to be sick and the nearest toilets were in the Costa, which I practically had to run to.
"I explained the full situation to a staff member because I am used to it now, and I'm always polite about it. But I was told I would need to purchase a drink or have some proof," she said.
"I spoke to another staff member who said the same. I usually have a Government shielding letter and my dongle showing I have an invisible illness, but I had left them in the car.
"I was rushing around in my handbag and couldn't find them so just had to leave.
"I came out in such a state and just burst into tears."
"It was awful," she added.
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After leaving the shop, Ms Hughes says she found a cleaner in the mall who took her upstairs and allowed her to use the toilets there.
"She was really lovely and said the toilets were closed but if someone needed them for a medial emergency, they could open them," Ms Hughes added.
"I am classed as extremely clinically vulnerable and don't usually go anywhere, and when I do I need to be near a toilet – it's quite embarrassing.
"But I only meant to pop in. I have since sent a message to thank Intu for helping me."
Ms Hughes said the experience had been made worse after her partner, angry at the situation, had returned to the Costa with Ms Hughes' letter to complain.
But he said they denied knowledge of Ms Hughes' illness.
She said: "I then rang the store up directly, and they quickly changed the story to 'you only said as you were leaving'.
"When I said I would take it further, they went straight on the defensive and told me to 'do what you need to do'.
"I don't want anything from them, an apology would have been enough, I just don't want it happening to someone else.
"You shouldn't have to prove an illness and I have never been asked before.
"I just think there needs to be discretion used, some retraining or discussion – why would anyone make something like this up?
"It's taken away my job, I couldn't see my daughter for two months and now only with a mask on, my parents are worried about me.
"I always ask, because I know its policy and times are difficult, but it wasn't nice and I would be devastated to think of any of my patients going through it."
A Costa Coffee spokesperson said: “Costa Coffee believes in creating a warm and welcoming environment in our stores.
"Whilst all our toilets are currently closed, we do allow team members to use their discretion and make exceptions for certain customers.
"We sincerely apologise for any distress this incident caused Ms Hughes and have been in touch with her directly."