Saturday, August 18, 2007

Europeans parents must fundraise for surgery in America

A FAMILY have begun a massive fundraising drive to bring their toddler son to the US for a life-saving operation after doctors in Ireland told them there was no hope of saving him.

Billy Caldwell has such a severe form of epilepsy that seizures can last for up to six hours. He can't yet speak and has only learned to sit up by himself. Doctors had told the parents of the two-year-old, Charlotte Caldwell and Andy Kempston, that there is nothing more they can do for him.


But his family were determined to find a cure and with the help of the internet, his mother Charlotte has found a US hospital with experience in working with epilepsy. The experts there believe Billy has a 98pc chance of being cured of his extreme seizures for good - but at a cost of €400,000.
"We finally got word recently that Chicago's University Hospital will be able to save Billy's life," said Charlotte, from her home in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

The family were due to travel to America in mid-August, but as the Chicago Hospital requires the €400,000 medical bill to be transferred into their account before any treatment is administered, it is no longer possible to leave this month. The trip has therefore been delayed until September 9.
"We are pleading with everyone and anyone to come forward and donate to help save our son's life. Every little bit will help. We will do anything to give Billy a life," said Charlotte.

Since Billy's first seizure in December 2005, Charlotte has never left Billy's side, as she is the only one trained to administer his medication. Every time they leave the house it is a struggle, checking that that they have sufficient oxygen and the medication needed if the worst does happen.

When he was four months old, Charlotte took him to the local hospital in Omagh to find out why he wasn't like other children his age and they referred him to the Erne hospital in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

In the ambulance on the way, Billy had a massive seizure and the paramedics were unaware what was happening. The seizure lasted six hours.

"I thought my son was going to die right there in the ambulance. I was so scared," said Charlotte. Billy spent four days in hospital undergoing tests until it was finally decided to transfer him to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where doctors spent the next four months trying to find a cure for what they diagnosed as intractable epilepsy. On March 8, 2006, doctors took his parents aside and told them that none of the treatments were working and their son was going to die.


"We were devastated. They told us to take him home to die because there was nothing that could be done to save his life.

"We didn't know what to say, we were begging the doctors surely there was somewhere else we could take him or there must be something that could be done. We couldn't accept that Billy was going to die," said Charlotte.

Epilepsy specialists in Chicago have said they can stop Billy's seizures for good, allowing the child to lead a healthy life and are currently preparing a program of tests for Billy when he arrives in September.

"They are much more advanced in epilepsy there than any of the hospitals here in Ireland," said Billy's mum.

A special website,, has been set up for anyone wanting to help Billy.


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