You were sort of close. Atlanta froze over creating a hell of sorts yesterday when Rep. Allen Peake dropped the bill HB 885 Haleigh’s Hope, named for Haleigh Cox, diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, who is still in the hospital. It now needs to go through committee in the house and if it passes, then get passed to the senate, and at that point will go to Governor Deal to be signed. Some basic details of the current version are:
The bill will be tightly restricted and very regulated, managed by a doctor, administered orally in oil or capsule form. Seizure disorders have been added to an existing law that includes cancer and glaucoma. (A previous 1980 law had allowed for controlled use for cancer and glaucoma, but due to stipulations on how it could be obtained, never actually benefitted anyone because they couldn’t get it.)
I’m very excited to see progress being made that could potentially benefit Connor and so many others. I’m anxious to find out the nitty gritty on exactly how and when we will be able to obtain it if passed.
Of course, this bill is met with controversy, and I don’t even mean the anti-any legalization whatsoever groups. People who want to treat medical conditions not expressly named in this bill are expressing their dismay. Another point of contention is the limited allowance of THC-where exactly we stand on that is unclear. The CBD oils are very high in CBD with very low THC and have great medicinal value. Since THC is the psychoactive component, this aspect gives great comfort to people who would otherwise oppose it. However, THC also has medicinal benefits. Some of the people being treated with CBD oil are supplementing with THC when the CBD oil alone is not enough. I don’t want to get too technical because this has been a learn-as I-go-along type of experience, and I do not want to unintentionally spread misinformation.
But this is a start. I’m hoping we are headed toward access to all components that could help my child. If you are dealing with a medical issue that would benefit from cannabis, I highly recommend you contact your legislators with your story. I hope we are on a path to this being an option for everyone that needs it. Georgia is an exceptionally conservative state that just let adults make the choice to buy alcohol on Sundays and cannabis has been demonized incorrectly for decades. Miracles don’t happen overnight, even if they should. Getting this far required the persistence of some incredible parents that knocked on doors at the capitol and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Atlanta’s Snowmageddon (Snowpocalypse? Can’t decide) that hit yesterday and had kids and teachers stuck at school and on buses, people sleeping in Home Depots, shelters, gas stations, strangers’ homes and in their cars on highways, while other people had their 20 minute commutes turn to nine hours only to ditch their cars and trek home on foot dominated the news. However, there was a front-page story about the bill in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution that continued to page A9 featuring none other than the little man himself.
I am but a mere soul in the mud trying to help push the truck, but credit for the amazing momentum of the last few weeks goes to a group of parents at the steering wheel. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some of them if only online. For every e-mail I send or person I try to persuade, they have done 100x that with face-to-face meetings, contacts to the media and bringing legislators that were once wary over the line to full support.
Please also check out Kason Jiles’ story. Connor was once in that position, stuck in the NICU with dozens of seizures every day.
All of this has made realize how lucky we are. Connor’s seizures are not good and are certainly a factor in his physical and speech delays — and there is always the fear of SUDEP or status seizures, but some of these parents are literally trying to save their kids’ lives. Not long-term — I mean NOW. As in they face very immediate life and death issues–each day they wait is a life time. Where we have managed to get Connor down to roughly three clinical seizures a day, their kids are seizing constantly. They have exhausted traditional options. FDA-approved meds have FAILED, the ketogenic diet has FAILED, the VNS implant has FAILED, brain surgery has FAILED or is not an option. Next month we start Connor on the ketogenic diet. In many ways I feel like that is our last option. Sure there are more meds we could try, but we’ve already tried seven.
I am very optimistic about the diet. I’ve done some tweaking to his diet in preparation for the real thing and I really think it has helped. His seizures are mostly 30 seconds and under and now only seem to happen upon waking in the morning and at nap time. But keto may not stop them 100 percent or it may not work forever — not to mention the incredible difficulty and lack of nutrition on the diet. Connor deserves every possible option on the table. All of these kids do.
Many people remain locked in an image of bongs and rolling joints. This is not how children would take this medication. It is an oil that they would take under their tongue and with food. They don’t stumble around high. There are other forms as well, but that is the one I am most familiar with. No child is going to be smoking.
President Jerry Luquire of the Georgia Christian Coalition has spoken against us with the media and to his followers. A number of parents began to e-mail and comment on their Facebook page pleading to be heard. All of our (polite) comments were deleted from the page and several people were blocked from commenting further. This was one of his responses to a parent. I have in no way altered it other than to remove the mom and child’s name:
Ms [name removed to protect her privacy], thank you for writing me on behalf of [child].
As a husnad, father and grandfather of children who are free of medical problems, I feel guilty somehow that I have been so blessed when you and others face such unspeakable pain. I am truly sorry. Our prayers join yours and others that those who can change the course of medical treatment will do so.
[Mom] if the law were changed in Georgia tomorrow, there would be no relief to situations where cannabis is required. The change that will help your son must be made at the federal level. There is no action we can take to bring about that change by enacting a permissive law in Georgia.
I was offered this observation Monday by a parent who said his son was doing fine with a marijuana treatment, using his term, and he felt he no more broke the law by buying it illegally than if Georgia make it ok, but the feds did not and he bought it then.
You make a compelling case for federal law change…please do not give up.
In Christian compassion
Jerry Luquire 706 366 8298 You are free to share this
response as you see fit.Co, thank you for writing me on behalf of [child].
Interesting. So his argument is the conflict of state laws and federal laws. This to him is more important than saving lives. Not to mention, we have already seen that the feds are making the choice not to interfere in other states. So does this mean he would support us if the feds wanted to make a change? I can’t help but suspect he would not. But this is a great way to oppose a potentially life-saving/changing medication and try not to look like a bad guy. Luquire made quite a name for himself battling Sunday alcohol sales and trying to prevent it from going to a vote by citizens, even though this was a local county and city issue. So I find this quote from a 2011 news article very interesting:
To my readers that haven’t yet done so, please contact your legislators and Governor Deal letting them know that you want sick people to have access to medical cannabis. This is being done at the state level, so we’re not asking you to contact your representatives in D.C., but the ones right here making Georgia law.
If you aren’t sure who your local legislators are, find out here.
At the end of my previous post, I included an open letter written by one of the parents leading this cause. He includes hard data on how his son has been helped since they were left with no choice but to leave their family and go to Colorado. If you missed it, please check it out.
Oh, I have a blog? I should probably update it. I’ve been so busy. I’m starting to get materials together for the D.C. trip with the TS Alliance in March, been filling out paperwork for Connor’s services and looking into starting hippotherapy (horses-yay!), and trying to read the books I bought on the ketogenic diet. I’m a tad bit nervous and anxious to get started. I’ve already tweaked his diet a bit to be low carb and higher in fat, which I think is helping his seizures, but no where near what the diet requires. It’s way too extreme to do without medical oversight. I can’t totally relax though because our appointment in Birmingham is Feb. 4, but that is just to meet with the neurologist. Though I was told he’d be admitted soon after, Connor doesn’t actually get scheduled for the clinic until that appointment. I’m scared they’ll pull some unexpected wait to start out of their pocket. I’d kept our appointment at CHOA just in case they could get us in earlier and save us the travel or in case something went awry with Birmingham. But come to find out, even though Connor’s neurologist has spoken to several people, and I have spoken to several people regarding starting keto, they still have him down for starting modified Atkins diet, even though the plan of action was changed before Christmas. I wish someone could explain to me how I have several conversations with someone about the fact that I’m bring Connor in for one thing and at no point does anyone say, “oh oops. He’s scheduled for something else!” Whatever. It’s the same old thing with CHOA every time, no matter what it’s for.
I’ve also been wrapped up in the sudden and surprising momentum of the medical cannabis movement in Georgia. The parents I’ve been talking to did an amazing job of getting the attention of the media and several legislators. Things are rolling and there’s more to come! I’ve been emailing my state legislators and the governor and we’re really seeing a lot of growing support. Access to medical cannabis has the potential to be life changing for so many suffering people.
Connor’s stubborness is reaching epic proportions. He will be two in March and he still won’t give up the bottle. A couple weeks ago I thought we were rounding a momentous curve. He has a sippy cup with a mouthpiece that can be interchanged with the bottle nipple. We’ve been more focused on cup drinking lately so it had been a while since I tried putting the actual sippy cup mouthpiece on the sippy cup instead of the nipple. I handed it to him and there was 15 seconds of drinking. My hands were on my mouth, trying not to gasp, practically jumping up and down. Then he stopped, pulled it out of his mouth, gave it a careful visual inspection, realized he’d been had and threw it down. The next 30 minutes were a standoff in which he would have no part of it. He had to accept a few sips from his training cup and his straw cup (which he’ll only take when urged and helped) before I relented and gave him the nipple. I like to create the illusion that I’m winning.
In spite of all this, we did have a great night out this weekend with two of our couple friends. Connor spent the night with my parents and we went to a wine tasting, dinner, had some drinks and hung out at a friend’s place. Part of the excitement was that we would be able to sleep in on Sunday, but I was having so much fun that we didn’t head home until four. I don’t think Chris was too pleased — he really treasures his sleep — but he humored me.
This morning I met up with Sara and her two boys for a trip to the Fernbank Natural History Museum. I wasn’t really sure Connor would be into it, but he had a blast. They have a pretty sweet play area.
My son Hunter has had intractable epilepsy for over 8 years and the seizures have severely impacted his development. He was able to do more before his seizures, such as stand unassisted against the couch. After starting to seize, he has regressed to a 1 month old development level. He depends on us for everything (transferring, feeding, diapering, etc.). We have failed 12 pharmaceuticals, often with devastating side effects such as hours of screaming fits, increased seizures, non-stop sleeping, no sleep, etc. We have tried vitamin supplements, chiropractic, intense neuro-developmental therapies, ketogenic diet for 2 years with constant dietary changes, and VNS implanted (https://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/vns).
He also has been diagnosed with a movement disorder. He flails his arms and legs and moves his head in all directions usually for hours at a time, sometimes in rapid succession. He moves and kicks so much in bed, we have had to put his mattress on the floor because he has fallen off the mattress. We are considering having to make a custom bed for him to keep him safe. His wheelchair has had to be customized heavily to stop him from hurting himself. We modified our Georgia home for his protection also. His shower there is extra wide so he doesn’t punch and kick the walls as he did when he was bathed in the bath. We also had to buy a ~$2000 bath chair out of pocket to strap him down while we bathe him. The typical chair covered by insurance would not provide enough support.
Since starting medical cannabis treatment, we are seeing way less seizures, more moments of relaxation, more happiness, greater eye contact, and greater awareness of his surroundings. Throughout his life, he has had a lot of GI issues, including constipation. We have noticed better motility with his bowels as we have increased the medical cannabis. He also used to clench his fists so tightly he would cut his hands with his fingernails. He did this fist clenching almost 24/7/365. He no longer does this.
In reviewing the past ~3 months of online seizure data, his seizures have gone from 17% of days without seizures (likely less than 17% if I dig further into paper records sitting on a moving truck now) to 47% of days without seizures after starting treatment (47% is a confirmed, hard number). Seizures that were 5, 10, or 20+ minutes before are now under 2 minutes. His more mild seizures we can’t even tell if they are a seizure now they are so quick and unpronounced. He holds his arms out as if he thinks he’s going to seize and then the seizure never comes. And this is all on a low dose, having just started medicine. Seizure medicines usually take months to tweak to a proper dose and this is the same way.
Haleigh Cox and 150,000 Georgians that have epilepsy should have the medical option of this gift from God. Thank you for helping us come home and share this medical treatment with so many other people suffering.
For your colleagues in the House and Senate, Georgia has a great medical tradition, including Emory, the CDC, and many health oriented companies and non-profits such as the American Cancer Society. We should step to the forefront on this health issue too and lead the way for states like Alabama and Tennessee that are considering legislation. Lets look at the science and put patients first. Medical cannabis is improving my son’s quality of life dramatically. It is our moral obligation to end the suffering of sick people. Lets pass some legislation this session before someone dies from unsafe pharmaceuticals. Compare the 40+ side effects (including death) of the most prescribed seizure medicine (Depakote) to the side effects of cannabis (none, virtually). Add to that the benefits that patients are seeing. It is clear the science supports medical use of this plant. Lets move forward with a bill in 2013 so Haleigh can live and Hunter can come home and stop being a prisoner in the state of Colorado.
I’ve read with some interest several circulating posts regarding “Things Not to Say to a Special Needs Parent.” I’ve never reposted the links though. It’s not that there is anything wrong with these posts, and there is nothing wrong with the fact that others repost them, but I just find myself too much able to see both sides. There might be one or two I agree with, but there are always a few that I think are genuinely well-meaning. The people who write them do it from the heart because that’s how they feel. Others repost and comment that they totally agree because they have similar experiences. But sometimes I think these posts unintentionally leave people on the other side of the fence feeling like they can’t say anything for fear of offending us.
Some comments are insanely obvious in their offensiveness, and I understand their inclusion on these lists. In fact, it is sad that someone even has to point out that you shouldn’t say these things:
1. What’s wrong with him/her? (Many parents don’t mind being asked about disabilities. Just do it politely and out of earshot of the child.)
2. That kid needs a good-old fashioned spanking. (Or any other disciplinary type of advice).
3. Were you taking medication while you were pregnant? (Really? Was YOUR mom taking medication while she was pregnant with you?)
But so many of the things on these lists I believe are coming from really well-intentioned people. Some of these things came from me at some point. To be clear, I’m not criticizing you if these comments upset you…I DO get it. And I’m also still fairly early in the game. Check back in a few years. Maybe I’ll feel differently.
1. I don’t know how you do it! or I couldn’t do what you do!
This easily would have come out of my mouth two years ago. It would have meant that I’m genuinely impressed by your strength. Now people say it to me. But the truth is, you can do it because you have to. If I had known before I ever became pregnant that Connor would have health issues, I would not have had kids at all. But life doesn’t work that way. If I can do it, you can do it. You’ve just been lucky enough not to find it out. So I choose to take it as a compliment. That’s me. But I do understand why it bothers some parents.
2. Have you tried…
For me, this is all about tone and presentation. This is not in and of itself offensive to me. I do not mind suggestions or telling me something you read or saw worked. I don’t mind when friends and family tell me that they know someone who recommended this supplement, or that they read an article that mentioned this type of therapy. You are simply giving me an option to look into. That is cool. What is not cool, is presenting it like that’s what I should have been doing all along, or that something is wrong with me because I’m not doing X, Y or Z. In my case, I will say the obnoxious comments like this have only come from online people I didn’t know personally. When I mention my son’s intractable epilepsy, don’t tell me I SHOULD be giving him fill in the blank with the latest hot supplement.
3. He seems fine to me!
I know my kid is delayed. But not having any other kids to compare him to I’m not always totally clear on where he stands on every little nuance. I don’t mind people commenting about the areas in which he is relatively on schedule or performing well. That being said, it’s going to come off very insincere if you say it when it’s a situation where it’s clearly not the case.
There is really just one thing I’ve found that I hate…like, beyond despise.
It’s the God stuff. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Or God gives special children to special parents. Or God has a plan.
I have never been a particularly religious person, but I’m not an atheist. I do like to think there is something after we die. I hope there is. But the thought that these paths are chosen and that my child and I were selected to deal with this makes me mad. I can deal with free will and the thought that things just happen because they happen and it’s up to us find our own path in life. The thought that it was part of “God’s plan” for my child, or any child, to be born with an incurable genetic disorder does not bring me any sort of peace. It infuriates me. I don’t want God to have a plan that included this because then that means the plan could have been altered so that he had been born without it. That doesn’t exactly make me fall on my knees.
But here is the tricky part. Some special needs parents do believe this and use these phrases themselves. What ticks me off, brings them comfort.
You won’t always get it right. Circumstances and moods change. Connor spent his first five weeks in NICU. His seizures started the day he was born. We met with countless doctors, nurses, therapists, chaplains and volunteers that would stop by his bed. A discussion of his medical condition would inevitably always close with, “Congratulations!” Congratulations on what? That my kid has some disorder I’ve never heard of and they can’t control his seizures? That he probably needs brain surgery? That I have no idea what is going to happen to him and I’m so scared I can barely breathe? But of course they said congratulations. I just had the most adorable, awesome kid ever born on the face of the Earth. I just wasn’t in a place to see it right then.
At the end of the day, it is really hard to know the right thing to say. All you can really do is have good intentions and be supportive the best you know how. We will let the ones that aren’t fade from our lives.
And for those still hung up on not being able to see marijuana as anything but an illegal drug (even though pediatric treatment is an oil that isn’t smoked and doesn’t get you high), why are you okay with FDA-approved drugs that can do this:
One of Connor’s meds carries this rare but potential side effect. Read about it here.
Still opposed? I guess you are okay with seeing my baby do this.
This is Hunter and he is eight years old. I met his mom, first at a music class she attended with her younger child, then I saw her again at the pool where Hunter and Connor both receive aquatic therapy. One day I realized I hadn’t seen them in quite some time, only to meet mom and dad again in a Facebook group. They had moved to Colorado to obtain treatment for Hunter after several seizure medications, VNS and the ketogenic diet failed him.
They have finally found an effective treatment in the form of medical marijuana–20 minute seizures are down to two minutes and he went six days straight seizure free for the first time in eight years –but now they can’t come home to Georgia. And they aren’t the only ones. Many families have left everything behind to move to Colorado to obtain access to medical marijuana. Charlotte’s Web is a well-known strain featured in the CNN special with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and created by Realm of Caring. It is low in THC so the kids do NOT get high, and it is in the form of an oil, so they do NOT smoke it. Sometimes people even have to leave other legal states so that they can get the form of marijuana their child needs. New Jersey is such an example. Though medical marijuana is legal, Gov. Chris Christie has made it exceptionally difficult for families to get what they need.
From the Huffington Post: “See this is what happens. Every time you sign one expansion, then the advocates will come back and ask for another one,” the governor proclaimed during a press conference from his statehouse office. “Here’s what the advocates want: they want legalization of marijuana in New Jersey. It will not happen on my watch, ever. I am done expanding the medical marijuana program under any circumstances. So we’re done.”
Remember that as he sets his sights on the Oval Office.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal also opposes it.
These families want to come home. And I don’t want to one day face the same decision they have if we can’t get Connor’s seizures under control. If you are interested in the legalization of medical marijuana in Georgia, please check out this group.
I can’t believe Christmas is over already. Seems like it was Halloween a week ago. Connor had a good Christmas, despite some not so fantastic developments beforehand.
I blogged previously about his bout with bronchitis and I mentioned that instead of an increase in seizures, which can happen in times of illness, he had a major decrease. Turns out many other parents have experienced this when illness causes their child to stop eating much. Hopefully, that’s a sign that the ketogenic diet will work for him. Did I say ketogenic and not modified Atkins diet? Yes, you read that correctly and I’ll come back to that.
Turns out, a week and a half almost seizure free wasn’t worth it because once he recovered and started eating again, they came back with a vengeance. They were longer, rougher and he was wobbly for a bit afterwards. His seizures for the last several months have topped out at 30 seconds. Now they were lasting two minutes. And they looked…odd. I sent a video to his neurologist who called me with the %&*# news that Connor’s seizures had morphed into tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures. Now, I knew they were rougher than the partials we have always dealt with, but you can read descriptions all day long of seizure activity and it still may not look exactly as expected. So they were rougher, but still not as rough as the grand mals I envisioned. I was shocked and not shocked at the same time.
So damn. A new seizure type. Common in TSC, but we had been lucky to go so long without that turn of events considering Connor’s seizures started at birth. Until now, other than partials, his only other confirmed seizure type was infantile spasms. I have sometimes suspected absence seizures, but those are tough to peg.
Shortly before this development, his neuro had changed his mind about the recommended course of action. As I mentioned in another post, we were trying to get him into the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite or Egleston ketogenic diet clinic for consultation regarding modified Atkins and seizure control. They couldn’t get us in until March, four months out from when we sent his records over. It took a month for them to even make the appointment, and our neuro was quite perturbed that after a month of trying to get started we had gotten nowhere and had three more months to wait. He did not say this, but my guess is that he was on board with MAD when he thought we’d be able to test out the efficacy quickly. Now, that we are facing several more weeks of seizures, I suppose he wants to take a more hardline approach. With the appearance of tonic-clinics, I’m very much on board now, whereas before — I was NOT thrilled with the idea of keto.
So we have continued our efforts to get in earlier at CHOA and they also referred us to Johns Hopkins and UAB in Birmingham, which also has a TSC clinic. Johns Hopkins also can’t get us in until March. So far UAB is the winner with a date of Feb. 4. So unless we get a miracle at CHOA, we will drive two hours to Alabama, which is preferable to flying to Baltimore.
In the meantime, we have upped his vigabatrin, something we were trying to avoid. His seizures shortened again and were less severe, though they still leave him wobbly. Most days he’s had one. Until two days ago when he had five. Yesterday he had one that left his right arm almost useless for 30 minutes after.
But on a happier note, Connor sure cleaned up at Christmas. We opened gifts at home in the morning with Chris’ parents who were in town, then headed to my parents for the afternoon and dinner, then stopped by Chris’ brother’s house where Connor went hog wild with his 10-year-old cousin Cody and their dog.
We can now start a family band, hopefully less annoying than Laughing Pizza, with Connor’s new keyboard, drum and xylophone. I continue to live vicariously through him by getting him a tent for his playroom (I can’t wait until he’s old enough for the Power Wheels I never got in the 80s). One of the gifts my parents gave him is the rideable airplane from Cars. He likes it until he accidentally triggers the mechanism that makes it light up and make noise. He takes off like a bat out of hell, so I suppose I will remove the batteries for the time being so he can play with it without fear of being eaten or chopped up or whatever it is he’s afraid of. He otherwise adores spinning the propeller.
The Christmas gift exchange between Chris and me was rather perilous…for me. Chris is not a “stuff” person. If it were up to him, we’d have a lot more bare square footage in this house. He always makes a list, and I always feel compelled to find at least one thing not on the list. However, I’ve completed his collections (that I started) of Chicago sports team Mr. Potato Heads and garden gnomes. I knew he wanted the Lego Rockefeller Center for his office, so score! An off-list item. Except when I got home, I made the mistake of asking for the updated Christmas list since I had only looked at his November birthday list. Guess what he had added? Dammit. So I gave it a shot by picking him up a button-up shirt at Belk. I stuck to his beloved Izod, but veered from his color palette. I knew there was a 95 percent chance of exchange. Mine’s on the left, his exchange is on the right.
For me he did a good job with three necklaces he picked out on his own, in addition to some Loft clothes I picked. He also got silly with this, which surprised me because my excessive mug collection drives him bonkers.
He also picked up a cow chip clip that moos loudly, as I am obsessed with black and white cows and hold to a belief that if I can get it out of the pantry with no one knowing, the calories don’t count. Massive backfire on his part. The thing is so sensitive, that even after being buried in drawer, open the fridge — MOOOOOOO!. Pour some milk — MOOOOOOOO! Turn on the sink — MOOOOOOOO! Then on New Year’s Eve it went completely batsh** and wouldn’t stop mooing even when we were sitting on the couch partying hard with VH1’s Happy Endings marathon surrounded by laundry (jealous?) I was upstairs when I finally heard Chris lose it and yell, SHUT UP! I heard a drawer being yanked open, so I rushed down to save my cow from possible obliteration.
I’m also thrilled to say we made it through all of 2013 without one hospitalization! Since Connor will be admitted in order to start the keto diet, we will not be able to say that of 2014. 2012 gave us five weeks in NICU, a brain surgery and an in-patient VEEG. Here’s hoping we all have a medically uneventful year.
One last thing — please keep in your thoughts that one of our newer TSC families entered our world of seizures last night and had to welcome 2014 in the ER. I’m hopeful they will quickly find seizure control. He’s doing well I understand.
I was contacted by Dave Terpening Insurance Company to be part of their “I Was Thankful for Insurance When…” post on their blog. I love any opportunity to get the word out on TSC so check it out here.