Billy Caldwell home for good after cannabis oil medication guaranteed
Castlederg teenager Billy Caldwell has returned home from Canada after medics pledged to give him the cannabis oil he needs to stabilise his epilepsy.
Billy and mum Charlotte were forced to fly to North America three months ago to get the 13-year-old his medication when - despite a change in the law here - no doctor in the UK would prescribe it.
Mrs Caldwell and her son landed at Heathrow Airport yesterday after receiving assurances that the special cannabis oil would be available to them.
She told the Sunday Times: "I have been assured that the NHS Trust in Belfast and Billy's NHS doctor are going to help.
"I'm feeling a wee bit emotional.
"It feels like I'm getting out of jail."
She added: "I scoured the UK and Ireland for doctors who would do this.
"I have lost count of how many emails I sent and phone calls I made."
Speaking in a video posted on Facebook as they prepared to fly home across the Atlantic, Charlotte thanked the Home Office and everyone who had worked to help her son.
"I'm just a wee bit overwhelmed, because I never thought we'd actually manage," she said.
"The three months we've spent here have been extremely difficult," the campaigning mum added.
Her voice trembling with emotion, she continued: "I'm sure everyone is aware that while this is extremely good news for me and Billy, there are so many other children that desperately need this medicine."
In 2017 Billy was able to get an NHS prescription for the special medicinal cannabis oil that treats his epilepsy. But his GP was then prevented from prescribing any more to control his seizures.
Last June when Mrs Caldwell tried to import some of the oil from Canada, where it can be legally obtained, the substance was seized from her by customs officials when she landed at Heathrow.
Just hours later, without the cannabis oil, Billy's condition rapidly worsened and he was rushed to hospital in London, prompting Home Secretary Sajid Javid to intervene to get the sick child the medicine he needed.
A review later changed the law to make the medicinal cannabis oil legally available in the UK
But doctors were still reluctant to prescribe it to Billy, citing guidelines issued by professional bodies which discouraged GPs from doing so.
That meant that, to keep receiving his life-saving medicine, Billy and his mum had to return to Canada for his treatment.
Mrs Caldwell is hopeful that now there is collaboration between the medical authorities in the UK and experts in Canada, neither Billy, nor any other child in need of similar treatment, will face the same bureaucratic hurdles again in obtaining a potentially life-saving medicine.
"For the first time, connections have been made between the medicinal cannabis experts in Canada and doctors in the UK," Charlotte told the Sunday Times.
"That is a huge step forwards for us in the UK, not only for Billy. The doctors that are talking now will hopefully start writing prescriptions for other children who desperately need this medicine."