A teenage girl who has to be fed through a tube in her heart has been left fuming after she claims she was booted out of a restaurant - because she hadnít ordered a meal.
Amy Knowles, 17, is currently a patient at Great Ormond Street Hospital after contracting septicaemia - a blood infection - due to the condition Complex Neuromyopathic Intestinal Dismotility (CNID) she has which means she canít digest food.
The teenager has been unable to eat any food for more than six months - and has to be fed through a tube taking nutrients straight to her heart.
But after a rare visit to a restaurant with her mother, Helen, and sister, Bethany, after she was allowed to leave hospital for a few hours, she was left mortified when a waitress told the party had not spent enough money as Amy was not eating - and allegedly asked them to leave.
The family claim a waitress at the Hare and Tortoise in the Brunswick Centre, near Great Ormond Street hospital (GOSH) told the family they would have to order a third meal - as they were pennies under the restaurantís minimum spend of £6 per diner.
Although stunned mother Helen explained that her daughter Amy was unable to eat - and even offered to show staff the tube taking nutrients into her heart - they claim they were told there would be 'no exceptions.'
One staff member even suggested Amy could have 'just a starter' - and offered to let the family buy food to take away and eat later.
Helen said: 'I am furious at the way my daughter was treated.
'It is hard enough for Amy to go into a restaurant knowing she canít eat - but she wanted to go out because her sister had come to visit her, and they were only allowed out of hospital for a short time.
'Amy is a very thoughtful girl, and she knows that her sister really likes the food at this restaurant - and said she wanted to go, even though she couldnít have anything to eat.'
The Hare & Tortoise Restaurant in London where a family claims they received poor treatment from staff
The three women visited the restaurant on Tuesday lunchtime - the day before Amy underwent risky surgery to have a potacast - which connects the central line that allows fluids to travel to her heart - replaced after it became infected with the bout of septicemia.
She had been looking forward to going to the restaurant as they sell iced tea - one of only a small number of drinks she can have - and she wanted that as her only 500ml dose of fluids allowed that day.
Helen said: 'Amy was quite happy to sit and just have a drink while we both had food, but we were told that because there were three diners, we had to spend at least £18.
'I had ordered food and drinks that came to more than £17 - we were pennies off the minimum spend.'
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The food bill for Helen and Bethany came to almost £13 and the two bottles of water and iced tea they ordered would have tipped them close to the requested £18 fee for three people to dine in the restaurant.
'I explained that really there were only two diners in our party, and told them about Amyís condition. She even had a GOSH wristband on, but then the waitress suggested she just had a starter - or even ordered some food and took it home later.
'I said we didnít want anything else to eat, but we were told weíd have to leave.
Amy during treatment at Great Ormond Hospital. There is no known cure for her condition that leaves her unable to digest food
Amy, who is fed through a tube, received a visit from Jessie J during one of her stays at Great Ormond Street Hospital
'She went to speak to the manager, who I explained the situation to as well - but he told me I didnít understand the situation, and all I had to do was buy some more food for Amy.
'There was no compassion, and they didnít even bother to try and understand what I was explaining to them.
'Itís not about the money - I couldnít care less whether the meal cost £100 - but Amy was so upset sheís been made to feel like she had done something wrong.
'When the waitress was talking to us, I could see the look in Amyís eyes - she was devastated by how she was treated.
'The restaurant is a five minute walk from Great Ormond Street, and a lot of children are probably taken there by their parents on rare days away from the hospital.
'Iíd hate to think any other child with dietary requirements was made to feel so small over a few pence.
'When we went back to the hospital, all the doctors and nurses who had been treating Amy were appalled.'
Amy shows the tube that takes nutrition to her heart
For 12 hours a day Amy, from Keighley, West Yorks, has to be fed by tube to her heart which feeds liquid nutrients into her blood stream, but what the future holds for her is uncertain. There is no known cure.
Amy said: 'Iíve got one life, Iíve just got to laugh and enjoy it.'
A spokesperson from the Hare and Tortoise disputed the family's account of events, and said: 'We are saddened to learn of the unfortunate experience our customers had at our restaurant during the busy lunch hours.
'The customers, a couple with a young girl (later we learned she had a serious health problem, being unable to eat), ordered two meals and a drink, amounting to approx. £14 to £15, just shy of £18 to make the average £6 per head.
'Our staff explained to the customers our rule, i.e. minimum spending of £6 per head as written on the menu, and offered them an option to order something extra or take-away meals to make up the spending shortage. But the customers were somehow just upset and were unwilling to consider this option we offered.
'Learning that the girl has just come out of a hospital, our staff apologised and said we are making an exception this time to enable them to enjoy dining at our restaurant.
'Unfortunately, however, the customers decided to leave.
'We are a very busy and popular restaurant, often with a long queue seen outside, and well-known for providing quality meals at affordable prices.
'Therefore, we have to ensure that there is a good turnover of customers to satisfy the needs of all our good customers and that is why we have certain rules in place.
'It is felt that our staff treated the customers fairly and well, and made a kind concession too. We are just saddened to hear of the unhappy incident. In order to show our goodwill, our management has decided to contact the customers to send them a Gift Meal Voucher.'
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