Thanks to a Saudi Prince, Billy Bostick's Birthday Will Bring the Gift of Renewed Hope
In the end, help came from an unexpected source. After seeing a Cable News Network story on Billy, Saudi Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdulaziz, a nephew of Saudi King Fahd and a 36-year-old father of four, deposited $250,000 in the boy's public trust and promised to cover all his medical expenses. When Billy got the news in a phone call from the Prince, he, his mother and family friends "all cried because we felt good inside," says Billy. "Someone from another country helped me when my own country would not."
A White House official said that the Reagans are concerned about Billy, and the President has learned of the Prince's gift and "appreciates his generosity." The Prince, who is a brigadier general in the Savdi air force, came to the rescue when it seemed that U.S. resources had failed. Billy's father, Philip Bostick, is a career Air Force enlisted man, so Billy is entitled to standard medical coverage under military insurance. But doctors at first did not recognize Billy's condition, Pam claims, and when it was eventually learned that he would need the risky transplant, the military refused to perform the surgery, arguing that the procedure was still experimental. (About 50 of the complex heart-lung transplants have been performed worldwide, and the surgery is now covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Florida.)
"If I've learned nothing else in this experience," says Pam, "it is that who you know is important, as well as having the guts to persevere." Divorced from Philip Bostick in 1978, she supported herself by selling her own paintings for as much as $300 apiece. A year later she married Bob Sundman, a former race car driver who helped her to open a gallery. "Bob was supportive from the beginning," says Pam. "He made trips to the doctor, the hospital and did things for Billy. I wasn't used to having this kind of help."
Throughout his ordeal Billy has defied the worst prognoses. His doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh say he is an excellent candidate for the transplant, but they will postpone surgery until the last moment, allowing Billy to grow as much as possible before the operation. At 4'11" and 100 pounds, Billy has a small chest cavity that makes finding a suitable donor difficult. Shortness of breath precludes any physical activity, and because a bad case of the flu had kept Billy out of school since last January, he will repeat seventh grade—if he is able to return. Meanwhile he sleeps eight hours a night with additional naps during the day, passing the rest of the time doing artwork, studying for his tutored school lessons or watching TV.
Best of all, he is looking to the future. "The Prince said he would help me throughout my operation if I promised to play a tennis match with him when I am well," he says. His mother shares her son's brighter outlook. Says she: "Hopefully we will celebrate many more birthdays with Billy."