Northern Ireland

Mother of Billy Caldwell wants epilepsy care refund

The mother of a Castlederg boy is asking the Department of Health to refund money she spent funding his health care in England.

Charlotte Caldwell has campaigned and raised funds for her five-year-old son, Billy, who has severe epilepsy.

When he was just six-months-old, Ms Caldwell was told by a doctor at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children that he would not survive.

'U-turn'

She refused to give up hope and took him to Chicago for life-saving treatment.

She raised hundreds of thousands of pounds and when the money ran out, she asked Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to fund similar care at a private facility in Oxford.

They left Chicago but when they got to Oxford, the minister appeared to do a U-turn and the funding stopped.

While Ms Caldwell challenged the turnaround, she borrowed £30,000 from the bank and from family members to continue the treatment.

Now the Department has changed its mind again and has agreed to send Billy back to Oxford.

Ms Caldwell feels the minister should refund the money already spent.

"I feel that he has a responsibility to Billy, and at least let us be able to pay back to the bank and to my family the money that was borrowed," she said.

'Compassionate'

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has supported the family.

"I would hope that both he and others who will be responding to this request will be compassionate and will recognise that this family has been through a very difficult ordeal over many years," he said.

"The reality is that the child has recorded enormous progress."

Mr McGimpsey declined to be interviewed, saying he could not comment on patient care plans because of confidentiality.

Ms Caldwell said: "I'm completely puzzled and bewildered why we have had to go through this because it's Billy's life at the end of the day and we're just trying to give him the best possible start in life."

More on this story

Around the BBC