A YOUNG man suffering from a serious illness has warned against discrimination of invisible disabilities after he was left “humiliated and degraded” in a North-East nightclub.

Joe Williamson, 21, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when he was 18 and in January underwent surgery to remove his large colon.

Since then, Mr Williamson needs to use an ileostomy bag, but says he encountered ignorance and hostility from a member of staff when he used the disabled toilets in Harvey’s nightclub with his fiancé, Holly Dargue.

The couple say they were confronted by the club’s security manager as soon as they exited the toilet and were questioned in front of revellers about why Mr Williamson was in the toilet with his girlfriend.

Mr Williamson uncovered his ileostomy bag and explained that he needed Miss Dargue’s help to check whether it needed changing and she had the necessary equipment in her handbag.

Further security staff were called over and Mr Williamson was left in tears by the episode, which came on his first night out since he had to start wearing the bag.

He said: “A crowd had gathered because people were thinking something was happening.

“You can imagine how humiliating it is having a crowd around you when you’ve just come out of the toilet.

“She [he staff member] said ‘you shouldn’t be in there, you aren’t disabled’.

“The bouncer had hold of me and I showed them the bag and they let me go straight away and walked off.

“It was like she knew she had made a mistake but she kept on going, saying we shouldn’t have been in there together.

"I felt humiliated and degraded."

Mr Williamson said the incident has knocked him back after his struggle to come to terms with having the ileostomy bag.

He said: “It had taken me a long time to get the confidence to go out in Darlington, you know that people aren’t looking at the bag but you’re always thinking that they are.”

He said that he is speaking out about the incident in the hope that it makes people more aware of and sensitive towards disabilities that may not be visible.

He said: “This isn’t a witch-hunt against Harvey’s or the member of staff, but Harvey’s needs to step up and train and educate their staff about his sort of thing.”

Details of the incident were shared on social media and have been seen by thousands of people, prompting the club’s management to contact the couple directly.

A spokesman for Harvey’s stressed that the pair were not asked to leave the club, as was stated in the social media post, and said that the staff member involved is “absolutely heartbroken” by people posting hateful messages towards her.

He said: “Harvey's is over ten years old and we have a great clubbing community and we certainly wouldn't exclude someone for having a condition like colitis.

He added: “Our offer to Joe and Holly to come in and discuss the situation and watch the CCTV footage and for us to sit down and tell us exactly what they are unhappy with remains.

“But we would like to thank some of our loyal customers who have come to our defence on social media and questioned the validity of such claims.

“We genuinely feel for Joe and his condition. But we feel it is unfair that we are getting such an awful backlash fuelled by a lot of untrue statements."