Mum of boy with cancer 'disgusted' at Great Ormond Street Hospital doctors' Grim Reaper jokes

The mum of a young boy with cancer, from Deal, Kent, said she's 'disgusted' after overhearing Great Ormond Street Hospital doctors and nurses making a 'grim reaper' joke Credit: BPM Media

The mum of a young boy from Deal in Kent, who has cancer has complained to the chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital, after overhearing the doctors and nurses sent to care for him joking about being "grim reapers" and telling relatives there was "no hope".

Parents Imogen and James Holliday had taken the heart-breaking decision just three days earlier to end active treatment for three-year-old Raffy.

He had been receiving treatment for three types of leukaemia and a virus which had "taken over his body", said Mrs Holliday.

The mum-of-four was waiting in the hospital corridor near Raffy's room last Monday (13 February) for the arrival of the palliative team of nurses and doctors.

Talking of their conversation only a metre away, she said: "I heard them say Grim Reaper. This is a children's hospital.

"It is such abhorrent behaviour. There are dying children."I was absolutely disgusted to my core. I told them 'what you have just said is absolutely disgusting. It is vile'.

"I said 'you are standing here waiting to meet me and my son and I have heard you speaking like that'.

"We were waiting to hear if we could get more donor cells."

Three-year-old Raffy had been receiving treatment for three types of leukaemia and a virus Credit: BPM Media

Great Ormond Street Hospital managers have launched an investigation and a spokesman said they were "taking this extremely seriously".

Raffy has battled three types of leukaemia, for which he has been in remission for 29 months and has a virus which has destroyed his bone marrow and reached his organs.

Raffy and his parents have spent much of his short life "in and out" of William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and Great Ormond Street.

The mum was standing "about one metre" from the nurse, doctor and consultant as they waited in the corridor of the bone marrow transplant ward.

She said they were unaware she was the mother of the child they were about to visit.

Raffy's mother Imogen Holliday said she was 'disgusted' by the conversation she heard Credit: BPM Media

Mrs Holliday, 35, said the team had been examining boards on the wall, which show staff pictures and the ward names, which are of animals and birds.

She said: "They said 'what would our symbol be?' and the consultant replied ‘palliative team, the grim reapers’.

"The nurse said ‘we should get it on hoodies and go into the rooms’ - actioning the grim reaper hood.

"The junior doctor added ‘no, it needs to be a bird. What about raven? No, no, dove. Symbol of hope’ she then proceeded to put her hand out in front of herself as if to halt, and said ‘sorry, no hope'".

She added: "At this point, they all burst out laughing, seemingly finding some hilarity in their profession and children dying."

Mrs Holliday, who has made complaints to the patient advice and liaison service PALS and also the chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital, said she confronted the three women and made them write down their names and positions.

"They were waiting for our CNS (clinical nurse specialist) to come and visit me, Raffy’s mother, and to meet him," she said.

"I can hardly put into words what it is like to be in this situation and be so vulnerable, at a time when you need sympathy, empathy, love and support and witness this."

Great Ormond Street Hospital managers have started an investigation into the comments Credit: BPM Media

Her husband James had been at Raffy's bedside, but Mrs Holliday brought him to the corridor and told him, in front of the team, what she had heard as he stood "open-mouthed".

The couple have told hospital managers they do not want that team to have anything to do with Raffy's care.

A Great Ormond Street Hospital spokesperson said: "We expect our staff to be compassionate and kind at all times and to ease, not add to, the burden of our families.

"We are very sorry for the distress that has been caused to the family.

"Conversations of this nature are indefensible. As soon as we were told about the incident, we launched an investigation.

"We are taking this extremely seriously. It is ongoing."

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