Rare condition crushes Bo’ness family’s dream move to Australia

An electrician is trying to reclaim almost £5000 in fees from the Australian High Commission after a tragic accident forced him to abandon plans to move his family to Australia.

From left, Mum Fiona, Zara (11), Ellie (13) William (7) and Dad Graeme.  Pic: Neil Hanna
From left, Mum Fiona, Zara (11), Ellie (13) William (7) and Dad Graeme. Pic: Neil Hanna

In December 2018 Graeme Allan (35), had reached the final stage of his application for a skilled visa to bring his wife and three children to Australia.

He had sold his house, and with his wife Fiona (34), had prepared his three children Ellie (13), Zara (11), and William, seven, for a move halfway around the world in search of a better life.

But on December 31, 2018 Ellie, then 12, fell over while playing on a Segway outside the family home in Bo’ness.

Mr Allan tended to a small cut on her knee and thought no more of it.

But a week later Ellie was still in pain, and the whole of one leg had turned purple.

She was rushed to hospital, and after a long period of assessment from baffled doctors, a specialist diagnosed her with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS), a rare condition which affects fewer than 300 people in the UK.

Usually triggered by an injury, the condition results in severe and long-lasting pain often described as worse than that of childbirth, and there is no cure.

Ellie, who used to be a keen football player and gymnast, was left in debilitating pain and often needing a wheelchair.

Once it became clear that Ellie’s condition would not go away, Mr Allan realised that the dream of emigrating was over, as she would fail the medical assessment from the Australian High Commission.

Mr Allan was advised by an immigration consultancy to withdraw his application, as a denial could count against him in future applications elsewhere.

Usual procedure would not allow him a refund of the money he had so far spent in fees, but his adviser hoped he might be granted an exception in the difficult circumstances.

But Mr Allan was refused a refund of his most recent payment, around £4,500 in Australian dollars, as he “does not meet the criteria” for an exception.

“It feels like everything is coming at us from all angles,” he said.

In a cruel twist to the family misfortune, Fiona was also diagnosed with CPRS following a car crash on the way home from hospital in July 2019 after an operation which partly improved Ellie’s condition.

“Everything has been taken over by CPRS, I feel like I’m not living, I’m just existing,” said Ms Allan.

“I can’t believe they won’t give anything back – it should be extenuating circumstances.”

She added: “It would pay for a bit of treatment for me and Ellie. Maybe physiotherapy or hydrotherapy, as we get a limited amount on the NHS.”

“The Australian government don’t need that money, but it would really help us. It’s not going to bring my wife or daughter’s health back but it could make them more comfortable,” Mr Allan said.

The Australian High Commission was approached for comment.