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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 15:44 GMT
Sleep disorder girl moves abroad
Debbie Williams with daughter, Rachel
Rachel's sleep patterns need to be monitored
The family of a girl with a severe sleep disorder are giving up their lives in north Wales to try to give her a better life.

Debbie and Andy Williams, from Llanfairpwll on Anglesey, have said their frustration with the standard of health care in this country has driven them to emigrate to America.

Rachel, 11, suffers from sleep apnoea - a potentially life-threatening disorder which prevents her from breathing while she sleeps. She will require treatment for the rest of her life.

Her brother, Richard, 19, also suffers from a less severe form of the illness.

Both have to wear masks that help them breathe through the night to control their apnoea.

Following a visit to an American centre which specialises in sleep disorders last year, the family has decided to move to the US permanently because they feel the country can offer Rachel better health care.

Rachel Williams with technicians at the sleep clinic
Rachel was treated at the Sleep Disorder Centre in Columbus

The family set up a fund to raise money to pay for Rachel and Richard's treatment in the US.

Campaigners raised 15,000 to pay for the trip which was initially delayed after a complaint about the fund raising appeal was made to the police.

But an investigation cleared the family of any wrongdoing.

After undergoing tests at the Sleep Disorder Centre in Columbus, Ohio, in September 2002, Rachel was found to suffer from narcolepsy and seizures as well as apnoea.

This means she can fall asleep and suffer fits at any time.

She will need to take medication for the disorders for the rest of her life.

But the medication she was given to control her narcolepsy in the United States is not registered for children in the UK.

Mrs Williams says the family decided to move to Columbus because they feel there was a lack of support from hospitals in the UK on their return.

"We knew we had to go back for treatment at some point but because Rachel had been so poorly this winter we decided to make the move permanent," she said.

Mrs Williams added: "She needs a life - she hasn't got one at the moment".

Richard Williams
Richard hopes to study at Ohio State University

Teachers at the new school which Rachel will attend in Columbus are trained to deal with the equipment she needs.

This means she will be able to go on school trips for the first time.

Mrs Williams intends to study to become a sleep lab technician at the clinic in Columbus while Andy will carry on working as a mechanic.

The couple have put their house on the market and will apply for a green card when they arrive.

Mrs Williams says she is very excited about the move.

"I am a bit sad, but also really looking forward, particularly for Rachel to have a life," she said.

"It is such a beautiful country and the people are so friendly and welcoming. It is about time we did something like this," she added.

The family are already looking at house prices on the internet and plan to move in May.


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