Tag Archives: HB 885

MAD is helping the seizures!

I have not used our Seizure Tracker app for three days. We have had a few seizure-free days here and there since I started tweaking his diet a couple months ago, but three days in a row isn’t so common and is pretty exciting. I’m not gonna get ahead of myself and say there won’t be future break-though seizures , but I’m so relieved to know diet therapy is truly helping. It does NOT work for everyone, so I’m thrilled that it is working for Connor.

If MAD does do the trick, it saves us from moving on to the more extreme ketogenic diet which would force me to become an organized planner, the absolute antithesis of what I am.

To be honest it hasn’t even been hard due to Connor’s delays. Since Connor is still a bit fickle about textures, he has never developed a taste for a lot of the stuff other two-year-olds have. He doesn’t eat chips and cookies. A good portion of his diet is is still pureed and I rely heavily on baby food portions of meat and vegetables. Since he’s picky about more solid food, I also buy prepackaged portions of chopped carrots  and green beans that are soaking in water and softened for him so he can transition to more texture. I also buy boxes of chicken nuggets without breading and meatballs. Basically, everything is already portioned out with all the nutrition info on the side. So it’s easy to keep track of his allotted 10 net carbs a day.

I started tweaking his diet a couple months when we were trying to get in somewhere to start the ketogenic diet–only to discover most hospitals take months to get you in. For a long time I just reduced his carbs, but didn’t stick to a particular limit. I just avoided pastas and gave minimal fruit. It seemed to help a little, but seizures were still almost daily. As I read more about it, I started giving him half and half occasionally instead of milk. Then, a couple weeks ago, after checking in with a nutritionist, I started stirring olive oil into his food, and switched from milk to heavy whipping cream mixed with water. I try to spread his carbs and fat evenly through the day. There is no specific amount of fat required–just “liberal use.” To figure out the 10 grams of carbs, I just look at the nutrition info and subtract the dietary fiber from the carb count because those carbs don’t count. I bought book that goes in my purse listing nutritional content of food for the process of getting him to eat more table food. Then I went to Walgreens and purchased Ketostix. Those are used to periodically check his urine for ketones. If the diet is being done correctly the color of the strip should reflect moderate to large ketones. The first time he had small, so I worked on spacing out his fat intake and his last two checks revealed large ketones in his urine. Ketones are what is left behind when the body starts burning fat for energy instead of the glucose from the carbs most of us run on.

Checking the urine of a kid in diapers is super fun. A book had recommended using cotton balls to soak up urine and squeeze it onto the strip. The writers apparently haven’t had much experience with today’s super absorbent diapers because I have to tear through the lining and stick the strip into…whatever that stuff is that spills out of a torn up diaper. Things that would have made me vomit before a kid.

One of the first changes we saw a few weeks ago was that his random seizures during the day were significantly reduced. But waking up was still a big trigger for him. I knew I would see one almost every morning and after nap. But even those have reduced, and I have seen none for three days. He even woke up twice this afternoon–mid-nap and at the end of the nap. I watched closely. No seizure!

Plus, when he was weighed recently he came in at 30 pounds. Last time any med changes were made, he was 27 pounds. So we are seeing this improvement, even though his meds aren’t calculated at his current weight. It would be so amazing to get him off one, if not both, meds. Fingers crossed.

Here are some photos from Disability Day at the Georgia capitol the other day. Several parents went to represent HB 885, which we hope will pass and move this state toward allowing people to access the medicine they need.

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An unsettling appointment and a great press conference

Quick plug: Lisa Cummings, another TSC mom I know through our online community often writes and shares poems about her life with her daughter, TSC and special needs. She just published her first collection of poetry and it is available through Amazon. Please check it out here.

The journey toward the ketogenic diet continues…and might end with me jamming a screwdriver in my ear. We have been pursuing diet therapy since before Thanksgiving. The wait lists at keto clinics are ridiculous. The one that could get us in the earliest was in Alabama, so we had our new patient appointment Tuesday. Two hours there and back again. Connor’s neurologist had sent his 157-page chart over well in advance. I knew that this appointment would be, for the most part, a formality as the neuro that will oversee him on keto has never treated him. As expected, it was a lot of repeating his history. There was only one thing I wanted after 2.5 months waiting–the date Connor will be admitted so we can get this damn diet started. We’ve had this hanging over us for months, afraid to plan trips and make plans. I thought that would finally come to an end yesterday, but it didn’t. She agreed to take him on, but we still have to wait to hear when he gets admitted. She hoped it would be February, but couldn’t say for sure. So until they call, I have to worry that they will want him during the March dates we’re in DC or Boston OR that they will want him in right before those dates and I will have two days to prepare for traveling on this insanely strict diet.

To be honest, the appointment was a little strange. First, I was bummed to find out that our stay will be longer than the typical keto stay because she wants to do an EEG first. Granted it has been a while since he had one, but I don’t want to spend a week in the stupid hospital. But if that’s what it takes to get things going, I wasn’t going to argue. The thing is, we just got the feel that she wasn’t that thrilled with the ketogenic diet. She wanted to know why we weren’t pursuing surgery. I consider surgery a last resort for the most part. It was an easy choice the first time because the seizures were so frequent and causing major developmental delays. But he’s much better now, and has already responded to some tweaks I’ve made in his diet on my own leading me to believe the diet will be beneficial. Also his EEGs, while indicating activity from the left occipital lobe, have also shown activity from other areas.

Don’t get me wrong…it’s not that we wouldn’t consider surgery again if a newer EEG could determine one particular tuber as the only or primary culprit (and my guess is that it would be the one in the left occipital) but since our referral was specifically for the diet, I really wasn’t expecting such enthusiasm for surgery. The doctor even made a point of expressing concern about potential side effects of the diet, and I was thinking…what is going on here? At any rate, surgery is not on the table for us right now. I see no need for that if keto can do the trick.

I know neurologists have very differing opinions on the best course of action…I just finished reading a book (I recommend Fighting Back With Fat by Whitmer and Riether) that talked about how the diet was often used decades ago, but fell out of favor with the emergence of so many pharmaceutical options coming on the market. It made a comeback in the 90s when the son of a filmmaker — Jim Abrahams — was diagnosed with epilepsy and he wasn’t responding to medications. The ketogenic diet was his savior. His father later made a film called First Do No Harm with Meryl Streep and started the Charlie Foundation. Since then keto clinics have popped up all over the country, and in many countries around the world. More and more neurologists are coming on board with diet therapy because it has proven results, but there are still some that shy away, especially in other countries. The book had me so gung ho on the diet, that this neuro’s lackluster response threw me for a loop. The nurse that came in prior was very enthusiastic about it. But forward we shall move.

Wednesday was a better day. I finally met many of the other parents fighting for HB 885/ Haleigh’s Hope so that we can have access to medical cannabis in Georgia when we met for a press conference at the capitol building. I’ve been to DC to meet with legislators, but this was actually my first trip to the gold dome, even though I’ve lived in the Atlanta area since 1992. I was not prepared for how packed it would be. As a former teacher, I feel I can express what so many of you are thinking in many public places (i.e. Fernbank, the aquarium, the zoo, etc). Field trips are evil. A necessary evil. But evil nonetheless. I remember being at the aquarium in the role of teacher, with multiple schools crowding the walkways, and looking at all the people who paid full-price admission and thinking, “You poor b*******.” As I crammed onto crowded capitol elevators, I thought, the kids need to see these places, but perhaps we should pass a bill banning scavenger hunts. But I digress.

Dressed for politicking at the capitol.
Dressed for politicking at the capitol.

It was freezing outside, very much in contrast with the 100 degrees inside the building. The room numbers are all out of order, too, thus ensuring a healthy workout. I started out meeting my representative Don Parsons, who has signed the bill. We had a nice conversation and he asked me many questions about Connor. Then I had a scheduled meeting with my senator Judson Hill. That didn’t happen as he had not come in that morning. I was disappointed to say the least. I am not sure where he stands on the bill as I have had no luck getting a response from him. I continue to follow up.

Check out that landmark in background! Pshh. Not the gold-domed capitol...Johnny Rockets!
Check out that landmark in background! Pshh. Not the gold-domed capitol…Johnny Rockets!

We had a press conference at 11:15 with WSB’s Lori Geary, who has been a champion of the cause, presenting it in an appropriate way and making every effort to make key issues clear. For example, we are still trying to make sure people understand that kids aren’t smoking joints. It is an oil form, high in CBD, low in THC — though I do want to be clear that THC has medicinal benefits as well. But since it is the psychoactive component, people are more afraid of it than the CBD. At any rate, the kids aren’t getting stoned.

WSB's Lori Geary speaking with affected families.
WSB’s Lori Geary speaking with affected families.

Several parents spoke about their kids: Shannon Cloud, whose daughter has Dravet syndrome; Janea Cox whose daughter has LGS and for whom the bill is named (Haleigh’s Hope); Chris Clark, whose wife and child have relocated for treatment; Jonathan Jiles, whose son was born with Ohtahara syndrome; and Aaron Klepinger, who flew in from Colorado to speak about his son’s successful treatment in Colorado and how they want to return to their Georgia home. FYI: Haleigh is in PICU and really struggling. They are looking at having to relocate a medically fragile child to Colorado when she becomes stable enough for a life flight. Fundraising efforts have started here.

Aaron Klepinger clutching a photo of his son Hunter.
Aaron Klepinger clutching a photo of his son Hunter.
Shannon Cloud addressing the need for medical cannabis.
Shannon Cloud addressing the need for medical cannabis.

I’ll keep you updated as it progresses through the process. Here is the news clip (you can see me and Connor in the background several times).

I’ll close with a few more photos from the capitol:

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Wendi Scheck with son Hudson and Rep. Allen Peake (and service dog Denali).
Wendi Scheck with son Hudson and Rep. Allen Peake (and service dog Denali).
It's hard to tell a delighted toddler that you aren't supposed to pet service dogs :)
It’s hard to tell a delighted toddler that you aren’t supposed to pet service dogs 🙂

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For anyone who thought hell would have to freeze over for Georgia to move towards legalizing medical cannabis…

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

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.

Haleigh's Hope-courtesy Corey Lowe
Haleigh’s Hope-courtesy Corey Lowe

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.

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I also ask that you please watch and share this video about why this bill is so important.