[Update: Judson Hill stepped down from the state senate in 2017 to run for the the seat left empty by Tom Price, who accepted a role in Donald Trump’s administration. Please read this if you are considering voting for him]
Dear Senator Judson Hill,
I am shaking with anger right now. The Georgia Senate just voted moments ago on HB 885, the medical cannabis bill. As it was discussed, my son’s 12-day seizure free streak ended at my feet. The bill passed 54-0. Two people didn’t vote. Where were you?
You have constituents that have tried to reach you for months. You have blown us off. You have tweeted and posted about your work on on SB 98, a bill to prevent healthcare plans from funding abortions. But you are silent on two bills that help children who have already been born. Two bills to benefit children: one bill to make insurance companies provide coverage to children who need therapy due to an autism diagnosis and another to help parents obtain a medicine that could help children with severe seizure disorders, and you did not vote on either. Why? Clearly, you have constituents that want to be represented. Perhaps I’m outnumbered? Maybe you heard from more people that didn’t want you to support these measures than did support. In that case, you didn’t represent them either.
I first e-mailed you on January 9. I did not hear from you, but given that the bill started in the House, I figured there was time, and that I’d hear from you when it became a Senate issue.
I e-mailed you again on January 31.
And February 6.
And February 24 in regards to SB397–the autism bill you didn’t vote on.
And March 7. Twice.
And March 11.
Plus an e-mail from my husband.
On February 5 we had a scheduled face-to-face meeting. I came down to the Gold Dome with my son and arrived at your office at the scheduled time. You were not there. You had not come in yet that day. No one could tell me when you would arrive.
On March 10, I attended your town hall meeting that you scheduled. You did not show up.
I tweeted you on several occasions:
and March 11
and March 13
and March 19. Twice.
I have never received any response from you whatsoever. I do not know of anyone in the district that has, and I won’t even get into how many times you’ve been contacted by others I have talked to. My efforts to reach you pale in comparison to the efforts of another nearby family who has a far more dire situation.
I guess you can afford to treat your constituents that way when you are unopposed.
But someday you won’t be, and I can’t wait. I will be there and I will be vocal.
One of your many irrelevant constituents
I finally sorta kinda made contact with Judson two years after I posted this letter. Apparently, the key to getting his attention is his wife. Rep. Allen Peake had posted on his public page about his disappointment in the failure of the 2016 Georgia legislature to expand medical cannabis. Senator Hill’s wife commented and the following thread resulted on that post.
I refrained from pointing out that the family he spent time with was the one that received the most press this year.
But this is how he handles “problem” constituents.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Living in Atlanta, loving travel and watching my son kick tuberous sclerosis complex's butt.