Tag Archives: Americans for Safe Access Georgia

The fight for medical cannabis in Georgia continues…

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.

Rep. Peake is working on legislation right now, convinced after meeting Haleigh Cox face-to-face in the hospital after she stopped breathing and had to be admitted.

Haleigh Cox with Rep. Peake
Haleigh Cox with Rep. Peake

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.

“Yet less than 1% of patients who failed to respond to three anti-seizure drug regimens achieved adequate seizure control on subsequent drug treatments even though some were treated with as many as nine different drugs or drug combinations.”

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:

“I hate government control of people, their business and thoughts — most of all their thoughts.” -Jerry Luquire

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.

Contact Governor Deal here.

If you aren’t sure who your local legislators are, find out here.

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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.
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Politics and Pinot

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.

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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.

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I’ll close with this open letter written by Aaron Klepinger. I posted previously about his son Hunter.

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.

People should not have to leave their homes so their children can receive medical treatment.

Photo taken from Faces of Cannabis web site.
Photo taken from Faces of Cannabis web site.

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.

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