Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland mum and son left homeless in US due to medical costs 'indebted' for help

By Claire Williamson

A Northern Ireland mother has said she is "truly indebted" to those who have helped both her and her ill son who were left homeless in America amid mounting medical bills.

Eleven-year-old Billy Caldwell from Castlederg suffers from a life-threatening form of epilepsy that has seen him endure daily seizures that turn him blue and don't stop unless he immediately gets medication and wears an oxygen mask.

He has been prescribed medicinal cannabis containing the cannabinoids Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is illegal in Northern Ireland.

<<To help or for more information visit Keep Billy Alive fundraising page >>

For the past number of months he's been in Los Angeles with his mother Charlotte, receiving the treatment.

But the family found themselves in difficulty when Billy was hospitalised after suffering a serious seizure.

The family had fundraised to get him there and to cover the costs of the treatment - but due to the unforeseen hospitalisation they have huge medical costs to pay.

This left them no money to keep their accomodation.

On Sunday Charlotte took to Facebook to say their situation was now "critical" in LA and she bought them a tent, camping cooker and sleeping bag to survive.

She said she had tears in her eyes as she was writing the post.

After appealing on Facebook fellow Northern Irish people living in LA offered to try and help the family and offered them somewhere to stay.

Charlotte said they have reached out to Northern Ireland's Health Minister who is set to make contact with the family on Tuesday.

She said: "From the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much to each and everyone one of you folk that has reached out to us, a huge heartfelt thank you to all of you people that have organised events and donated much needed funds for my wee Epilepsy Warrior.

"Hoping and praying with the help of our Health Minister we are one step closer to providing a solution to bringing my wee Warrior home and paying his medical costs already outstanding here in LA."

She added: "Feeling so blessed, proud and full of gratitude for my wee Warrior.

"Feeling truly thankful and indebted to each and everyone of you folk who have given me a shoulder to lean on , when we couldn't hold ourselves up."

In a statement Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill said: "I am fully aware of Billy's situation and that he has been receiving treatment in America.

"I recognise the huge efforts and sacrifices made by his mother Charlotte over the years in trying to get the best treatment for Billy.

“Decisions relating to individual patients' treatment are for clinicians to make. Where certain expertise is not available in the north, patients and their families can access treatment and support elsewhere using an Extra Contractual Referral (ECR).

"It is matter for clinicians, in discussion with patients and their families, to initiate the ECR process where this is considered necessary."

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