AN Ulster Bank manager promised the mother of a disabled that he would intervene to personally ensure funds saved up for a vital operation for her son will be released in time.
On Wednesday the mother of a Co Down toddler affected by a form of cerebral palsy says she was “terrified” that the family will be unable to pay for the operation their son desperately needs because of the Ulster Bank crisis.
Comber mum Savien Douglas, 35, told the News Letter that she feared the money raised throughout the Province for her wheelchair-bound son Billy would not be transferred in time for his July 28 operation in Bristol.
Three-year-old Billy suffers from a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic diplegia, which means he cannot walk as he is unable to straighten his legs or feet.
In order to cover the cost of a procedure that could rectify his condition, Savien and her husband William launched an appeal and raised more than £50,000. The surgical procedure Billy needs is known as selective dorsal rhizotomy, an operation not currently available in Northern Ireland.
Mrs Douglas, a full-time carer for Billy, said: “This is cruel, heart-wrenching stuff. I want to appeal to the Ulster Bank so my son can get his operation and walk for the first time unaided. The money is there and I can write a cheque, but the money won’t be released until this bank mix-up is resolved. I am just crying on a daily basis. Everything has been sorted out and everything is in place – and then this.
“The money is in the account. Every single penny is there. We have gone through hell to get this money. Billy is really looking forward to his operation. He lies on his mat and says ‘I am having my operation. Billy’s going to walk’, and I just hope to God he is.”
The Douglas family plan to fly to Bristol on July 27. Billy is scheduled to have his operation in a private clinic the following day. Mrs Douglas said her son needs this operation before his fourth birthday for it to have maximum effect. Billy will be four in September.
“The Province as a whole has raised more than £50,000 for him so he can have this chance,” she said. “I am so angry because it is not as if this is something silly – this is a life-changing operation. If this money is not freed up they will be seeing me in court because this is so important.
“Life is very stressful at the minute and this is just a nightmare. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
But late last night, Mrs Douglas received a phone call from her local Ulster Bank manager to apologise for her inconvenience and to stress that the money will be wired through to allow Billy to have his operation.
Doctors here believe that Billy’s condition took hold either in the late stages of Savien’s pregnancy or the early ones of his delivery.
“He was delivered at 38 weeks, there was no problem, he was great,” recalls Savien. “When he was a year old we were told that he had brain damage.”
Savien had suspected there could be something amiss when Billy failed to start crawling or walking. She took him to Musgrave Park Hospital to see if staff there could treat his limbs, but had a shock when they told her that brain damage was at the root of the problem.
Savien said the private hospital where Billy is scheduled to have his operation “must have their payment cleared before they will touch Billy”.
“The hospital needs to be paid and the funds need to be cleared. I really don’t know what else to do,” she said.
“I am down there every day and it is not the Ulster Bank staff’s fault. It is the fault of someone on a much higher level.
“If Billy gets this operation, as planned, he will walk unaided for the first time in his life. If we don’t get this operation we are doomed because he turns four in September and there is a six-month waiting list to get another slot with the surgeon who can carry out the procedure. “Billy is so restricted in what he can and can’t do. This operation would change everything. He could do the little things that other kids take for granted.”
Mrs Douglas appealed for anyone who would like to make a donation towards Billy’s aftercare by contacting her at email@example.com, or by sending a cheque to their home at 11A Magherascouse Road, Comber, Co Down, BT23 5RT.