Mother left angry and humiliated in A&E gains apology from doctor

I would like to share my story in the hope that it encourages others to be brave in confronting a situation. I have never felt so angry and humiliated but the genuine response I received later the same day remains a most positive experience.

My children aged 5 and 3 clearly had whooping cough. I visited the website written by a Dr and also called a friend who was a GP and whose children had recently experienced the same. Because we had a holiday booked we needed to verify the illness in order to claim cancellation insurance. Because my own GP took the swab incorrectly, twice, despite me showing her the instructions and emphasizing the importance of doing it correctly the second time (time constraints in the bacteria showing in a swab) she sent me to the A&E department.

It was odd that even though I called ahead to explain that I thought the children may be contagious with whooping cough, the hospital didn’t seem to be concerned and told me to just sign in and wait as normal. A junior doctor came to help, very chatty and child friendly, and said that he doubted it was whooping cough because the children were otherwise well. (In developed countries well-nourished children seem to appear well in between the coughing and as the coughing mostly occurs in the night, then yes they did seem OK.) But then he asked if they were vaccinated and I said that my son wasn’t up to date and my daughter didn’t have it at all and his attitude completely changed. He didn’t ask why they weren’t vaccinated and didn’t seem to be aware that it’s common for fully vaccinated children to suffer from whooping cough. He became very angry and mean and stopped using the children’s names. He told me that children had died in his arms from whooping cough in Africa, which I found really inappropriate for the children to hear.

The doctor confirmed that he would have to take bloods because of the time since the fever and then repeatedly and angrily asked “Well, do you want me to stick them?” “Have you decided if I should bleed them?” I was so shocked and I froze. The insurance wasn’t worth the intervention of a blood test anyway so I left. I hoped the GP would verify possible whooping cough instead in a letter (in the end she just wrote bad cough).

My blood was boiling and I stayed like that for 3 hours. When I got home I started to write a document about what had happened, including references. I planned to make a formal complaint. However, when I returned to the hospital the PALS office was closed and I really wasn’t happy just leaving. I needed to speak to someone so I decided to walk back to A&E and confront the doctor. He was surprised and asked if everything was OK… “No it’s not OK” I replied. “What medical terms are stick and bleed? And how professional was it that you mentioned dying when in the UK children don’t die, only babies? Did you even ask why they weren’t vaccinated for the whooping cough?”

He went pale and was shocked into silence. Then he actually took my arms and couldn’t stop apologizing. It was completely genuine. I handed him the 3 page document and said that if he reads this in front of me then I wouldn’t take it any further, otherwise I would. He read every word under my stare, took the folder and thanked me. I had immediate closure and really don’t think I would have felt this way if I had gone through PALS. 
I know that they can help too but sometimes person to person is more powerful.