Desperate mum charged £68,000 in NHS bills for toddler’s deadly liver cancer

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An East London mum has been billed £68,000 for NHS fees after her two-year-old daughter needed a series of life-saving treatments for a rare form of liver cancer. Despite having lived in the UK for more than 10 years, Reeja Shrestha, 25, ofRedbridge, has been billed tens of thousands to treat her toddlerOmisha’s Hepatoblastoma, and expects to be billed more for further treatment.

Omisha, a “playful” and “social” toddler who loves colours, has needed various life-savings treatments since she was diagnosed with the rare cancerous tumour in her liver at just eight months old. Reeja said her daughter’s shock diagnosis came after they bumped into a family friend who is a nurse in the local park, who checked Omisha over and found an ” abnormal tenderness” in her tummy. She told Reeja to take Omisha to the GP immediately.

Reeja said from the GP they were sent for further examinations at their local Redbridge hospital, then at a bigger London hospital, where they were given the terrifying diagnosis. “We had not even expected it can happen to a small child,” Reeja told MyLondon. ” We don’t have any history of cancer in our family, so to happen to her, a small child, she’s not even like a one-year-old.”

READ MORE: Boy, 7, who has spent more than half his childhood in hospital with rare leukaemia ‘wants a big party with all his friends’



Omisha, 2, has spent months at a time living in London hospitals throughout the covid pandemic

The young mum described how Omisha had been a “healthy, chubby baby, with a big tummy,” but they had no idea there was something wrong until they bumped into the nurse family friend.“Otherwise we would not have known,” said Reeja. After her daughter’s diagnosis Reeja’s life became a treadmill of endless hospital appointments.

Reeja and Omisha have spent various Christmas, Valentine’s day, Easter holidays, and New Year’s Eve in hospitals, and have become increasingly isolated from their family and friends. ” I can’t take her to any place because she’s very immunosuppressed,” said Reeja, “so I haven’t taken her anywhere where there is a crowd. I haven’t met my in-laws for like two years now.”

This is particularly sad, said Reeja, because Omisha is such a “social” toddler. “Whenever she sees people she would be saying hello, she wants to talk to them,” said Reeja, who said her daughter loves seeing the nurses and doctors in the hospitals, who are some of the few people she sees.



Reeja, right, said she and Omisha have been isolated from their friends and family for 2 years, as Omisha is now immunosuppressed since her liver transplant

Reeja said despite her illness, Omisha is ” very active, she’s very playful.” She added: “ Her tummy is a bit big because of her liver transplant, so even if she wants to she can’t do much things like climbing and running.

“She can’t climb fast like other kids, but she tries.” Reeja said Omisha has lost a lot of her hearing due to chemo, but she loves bright colours: “Wherever she goes the first thing she will notice is colours, she’ll say ‘mummy look at the colours’.”



Omisha can’t hear well since her chemotherapy, but she loves bright colours, according to her mum

Omisha’s ongoing treatments – all during the Covid pandemic – have included a full liver transplant in January 2021, chemotherapy, PV stricture dilation surgery, blood transfusions, IV antibiotics, CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, and endoscopy, colonoscopy, and biopsy procedures. The two-year-old is currently on a course of Rituximab therapy to treat cancerous lumps on her lungs, groins, underarms and behind her neck (PTLD).



Omisha’s ongoing treatments have included a full liver transplant, chemotherapy, PV stricture dilation surgery, blood transfusions, IV antibiotics, CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds and more

But even though some of Omisha’s treatments were emergency procedures, said Reeja: “We would always receive NHS bills, even after every A&E visit,” because of her pending Home Office application for leave to remain in the UK. Reeja described her shock when she received her first bill. ” After her fourth chemo we got the call from the overseas officer to say we would be charged,” she said.

Reeja explained: “After her liver transplant and everything, after a few weeks the local hospital called us to bill us. They would say you have a seven-day time period to pay and we would keep getting extensions for a few weeks then they would send us the bill again.

“The recent bill is around £68,000 and it might keep adding up. We just went to the hospital in March so they might be sending us a new bill again.”



Reeja says she has no idea how her and her husband will raise the £68k they’ve been charged for Omisha’s treatment

The desperate mum-of-two, who also has a six-year-old daughter to look after, says she and her husband, Basudev Bhakta Shrestha, 45, don’t know how they will possibly pay the huge amount of money, particularly as they expect to be sent further bills as Omisha’s condition is ” going to be lifelong .” They have set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of raising money towards some of the costs.

“There is no other options,” said Reeja. “Because my husband just got a job this January and he’s still on the trial period right now. As he is working now he has to pay all the bills and our debt taken from friends and family.

“So all the money we can’t save for the NHS debt. Even if we payed a little bit each month from the savings it would not be enough.”



Reeja is scared their NHS debt will simply keep going up due to Omisha’s ‘lifelong’ condition

Reeja has lived in the UK since 2010, when she moved to Nepal to study here and met Basudev. Reeja said her student visa expired in 2015, and while her new visa application with the Home Office was pending – she claims the Home Office took “one and a half or two years” to process it – she fell pregnant, at the same time as the huge 2015 earthquake happened in Nepal, making it impossible for the couple to return.

Reeja said she and Basudev currently still have a pending human rights application with the Home Office – she said the couple were told to consider being granted asylum-seekers status as an alternative, but declined this as they didn’t want to cancel their pending human rights application.

A Barking Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust spokesperson said: “We must follow the law which means anybody who doesn’t have indefinite leave to remain in the UK isn’t entitled to this treatment free of charge – we will continue to treat Omisha to ensure she gets all the care needed.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We will be contacting Ms Shrestha about her current application.” The Home Office state that all Primary care services, including GP consultations, should be free of charge to all, as well as Accident and Emergency care. The Home Office also confirmed it has exemptions in place “to protect public health and the most vulnerable patients.”

The Home Office added that urgent treatment is never withheld, regardless of whether charges may apply. For secondary care services, the UK’s healthcare system is currently residence-based, which means must be living lawfully in the UK on a properly settled basis to be entitled to free healthcare.

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