Tag Archives: marijuana refugees

When will Georgia’s medical cannabis refugees come home?

In the months since Georgia’s 2014 legislative session ended without passing proposed medical cannabis legislation (due to political games, not lack of support), the community of medical refugees in Colorado has grown.

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Notice anything funny about the south? Sing with me! One of these things is not like the others… Admittedly, the laws in the bordering states are of varying efficacy. South Carolina, for example, is only an immunity law that protects you if you are caught with high CBD strains, but does nothing to help patients obtain it. Florida, on the other hand, is allowing for the  growing and selling of high CBD strains next year. If Amendment 2 passes in November, Florida will be able to enact an even more comprehensive program that will benefit more people and conditions.

So now meet some of the Georgia families that are waiting to return to their homes, families, doctors, therapists and friends.

The Cox family

The Georgia bill HB 885 was also named Haleigh’s Hope in honor of this little girl who turns five this month. Shortly before this year’s legislative session ended, Janea and Haleigh packed up and moved to Colorado because Haleigh, who has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, was suffering life-threatening seizures that caused her to stop breathing. Her dad, Brian, was unable to go with them because of his job and now they have to live apart.

Haleigh before. 
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Haleigh after.

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As I scrolled through the Hope for Haleigh page I was struck again by the change in her. Janea takes and posts a lot of pictures and I could see the improvement, but in looking for before pictures, I was struck by how difficult it was to find photos of her looking at the camera or smiling. Now we see quite a few of those. Sitting in a swing by herself wasn’t possible a few months ago. She also said her first word in Colorado — Mama. Haleigh is not seizure free and still has some rough days, but she has also had some seizure free days. That simply didn’t happen before she started on Haleigh’s Hope provided by the Hope Foundation. Janea has said that she felt like she was finally meeting her child these last few months. Haleigh has even been able to wean off one of her seizure medications. But living apart from Dad is emotionally taxing and they hope that 2015 will bring legislation that will allow them to be a family again.

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The Oliver family

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Tripp had his first seizure on April 9, 2009 and was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome. He has tried more than a dozen medications since then and in April of this year, he and his mom moved to Colorado where he started THCa through Realm of Caring. It was hard to leave Dad and his team of therapists who have spent years working with Tripp in speech, occupational, feeding and physical therapy, but since then he has had two separate three-week streaks in which he had no convulsive seizures. Mom describes him as brighter and happier with improving speech capabilities. You can follow his journey at Tripp’s Trip.

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The Klepinger family

The Klepingers left for Colorado late last year. They still own their Georgia home with the hopes they can return to it and their extended family and support network. Hunter is still doing well on Charlotte’s Web. I shared Hunter’s successes previously in this post. Since then, Aaron and Dawn have a welcomed a third child, lovingly nicknamed their Colorado Tumbleweed.

Julian, Chase and Hunter.
Julian, Chase and Hunter.
Hunter with Rep. Allen Peake, sponsor of Georgia's 2014 medical cannabis bill. Peake flew out to Colorado to meet the families.
Hunter with Rep. Allen Peake, sponsor of Georgia’s 2014 medical cannabis bill. Peake flew out to Colorado to meet the families.

Aaron invites any legislators with doubts to come to Colorado and meet the kids. “Seeing is believing,” he says.

The Clark family (follow them at Hope for Caden)

“My Caden has had thirteen completely seizure-free days! Understand that was never a possibility before! He no longer seizes during the daytime at all, only at night,” Kim Clark posted in May of this year. “There was no hope before this, nothing. Caden’s life was seizing somewhere between ten up to into the hundreds times a day. There was no life. Coupled with the side effects from medications, my boy was miserable. Now we are so blessed that he is 10 years old and we are trying to learn how HE CAN LIVE!”

Kim posted this photo recently with the caption "Slowly healing."
Kim posted this photo recently with the caption “Slowly healing.”

But Caden’s healing has come at a price. The Clarks are also a split family. Kim is in Colorado with the kids and Dad Chris has had to stay behind in Georgia for work. They share the same reality as the other families living hundreds of miles apart. Dad can come visit them, but they can’t go home to see him because they can’t legally travel with the oil. Recently, Kim and Chris traded places for a short period so she could make a trip home.

Kim sits on the front porch of her Georgia home, possibly for the last time, as they plan to put it on the market due to the expense of maintaining two households.
Kim sits on the front porch of her Georgia home, possibly for the last time, as they plan to put it on the market due to the expense of maintaining two households.

The Sumlin family

Sheryl and her daughter Trinity arrived in Colorado earlier this summer.

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It’s early to gauge the response of Trinity’s seizures to Haleigh’s Hope since mom opted to titrate up to the usual starting dose, an incoming tooth is causing seizures and Trinity is requiring supplemental oxygen as she adjusts to the altitude. However, Mom is seeing beacons of hope in small things like wiggling her toes, calmness, awareness, making sounds and sleeping better.

But leaving her support network has been extremely tough. “It is harder than I thought it would be,” Sheryl says. “Although it’s beautiful here, it is not home. My daughter’s school and that whole network has been a huge part of our lives for the last 5-6 years. Also, friends who knew us since forever. I think it’s unfair that we have to move so far to have an opportunity to try this medicine.”

The first dose.
The first dose.

Sheryl is out there without nursing help or a car. Prior to flying out she donated her vehicle to another family in need. A fundraiser was set up by a third party to help her with expenses, but she never received any of the donations that were made on her behalf. She is grateful to the Journey of Hope foundation, a non-profit started by Rep. Allen Peake,  for coming through and helping her financially with the move.

The Lowe family (follow them at Paws for a Princess)

Corey worked tirelessly during the 2014 legislative session to persuade Georgia legislators how badly we need access to cannabis. She was devastated when it didn’t pass, and by May, her daughter’s seizures were getting out of control. She had a tough decision to make.

Interviewing with CBS 46 about their impending move after Victoria was admitted to the hospital.
Interviewing with CBS 46 about their impending move after Victoria was admitted to the hospital.

In June, with help from Journey of Hope, they packed up the car and drove across the country leaving behind Corey’s job, her husband and Victoria’s siblings.

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Since starting on Haleigh’s Hope, Corey tells me Victoria has had an 80 percent reduction in seizures. From several a day to this:

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The incredible eye contact and improved communication Victoria is showing now helps alleviate the pain of leaving their home, but Corey still worries.

10564845_10152238336840905_49063206_n“It’s great, but at what cost,” she told me. “How will this affect my children, who I left behind, in the long run? Will they resent Victoria because I had to leave them behind? How is not having a mom around affecting them?”

She also feels guilty about the families that simply don’t have the means or circumstances to move across the country. “The absolute worst part about having this medicine is seeing kids back home that need it. It’s hard to celebrate the success when kids are going into the hospital because of seizures.”

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The Klepinger, Clark, Lowe and Sumlin family sharing their 4th of July celebration in Colorado.
The Klepinger, Clark, Lowe and Sumlin family sharing their 4th of July celebration in Colorado.

 

 

Related Posts:

The Side Effects of Medical Cannabis

U.S. Representative John Fleming Is Out to Prevent Access to Medical Cannabis for Our Kids

 

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And another medical marijuana refugee is born…

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Janea and Haleigh left for Colorado yesterday. Haleigh is the little girl for whom HB885 is named “Haleigh’s Hope Act.” The awesome Rep. Allen Peake met her and immediately began his crash course into the world of medical cannabis and CBD oil, pushing this Georgia bill with everything in him.  But Haleigh’s declining health means she can’t wait. Her father must stay behind in Georgia because of his job.

HB885 has passed the senate committee but with major changes. Cultivation is out. Basically, it provides legal protection to a person caught with CBD oil. It does not help us obtain it. This was always a hurdle even with cultivation (there were different issues surrounding that). You’d have to get it in a legal state and get here without being caught. Frankly, places like Realm of Caring are not going to sell it to you knowing you plan to cross state lines against federal law because that puts them in danger of being shut down by the DEA. It’s important to understand that this bill, even if passed on the senate floor, signed by the governor and made law, would not allow everyone to run out and get it for their kids. It does prepare our state, however, for a change at the federal level. If the feds reclassify it with the DEA — as they need to — we are ready to go. And hopefully, passing this in such a conservative state will add more pressure to the federal government to get off their butts and help people.

Another twist is that a separate bill is now attached to HB885. The chair of the senate committee, Renee Unterman, has been trying to pass a bill for five years (Ava’s Law) mandating that insurance companies cover treatment for autism (Georgia is one of a minority of states that don’t require autism to be covered). A compromise bill that increases benefits up to age 6 is now part of a package with HB885 called the Kid Care Act. The autism bill has also been tacked onto HB943, which would prevent insurance discrimination over certain types of cancer treatment. The reason is that the autism bill alone would have to go through subcommittee in the House, and thus far, they haven’t been willing to hear it. By tacking it onto bills that have already passed the House, it bypasses the subcommittee when it goes back to the House for approval for the change.

Now the bill must go through the Senate Rules Committee and then go to the Senate floor for a vote. Then it goes back to the House for approval. Last day of session is March 20. Nothing like going down to the wire! Once again, if you haven’t e-mailed your Georgia state senator yet to support HB885, you can find out who yours is at openstates.org.

Also of note are two op-eds in the AJC today. Eli Hogan shares his experience living with Crohn’s Disease and it is a great read. It is followed by a  counter-point from Rep. Sharon Cooper. As you read it, please keep in mind that she voted to pass HB885 twice. First out of committee, then on the floor. I would also urge you to read some of the excellent comments from parents below the essays.

If you missed Sanjay Gupta’s follow up to last year’s special Weed, you can find it here. The original is here. Anyone who cannot invest the 45 minutes it takes to watch at least one of these has no right to question the people who are fighting for these changes.

The Side Effects of Medical Cannabis

I’ve posted before about Hunter, an eight-year-old boy from Georgia, whose family relocated to Colorado several months ago to try and treat his severe epilepsy with cannabis oil. Previously 12 FDA-approved meds, the ketogenic diet and a surgically-implanted VNS had failed to make him seizure free. He was not a candidate for brain surgery. Some of his meds made him sleep constantly or scream. Here is an update.

This non-psychoactive oil has made an incredible difference in Hunter’s quality of life. According to Mom, “His bad seizures (myclonic clusters) would happen almost daily before and last 5-10 minutes.  NOW, he is averaging one a week and they are under 2-3 minutes.  In the month of February he has had 4 so far.  This is HUGE! His quick seizures used to last upwards of 30 seconds and happen 10-20 times a day.  After a month or so we were still seeing them every day and several times a day but they were literally seconds and half the time we couldn’t tell if he was actually having a seizure.  Now, after 3 months, we are hardly seeing ANY!”

But in fairness, we must address the side effects of this medication. Sure, it might help kids with terrible seizure disorders that are damaging their brains and ability to function and learn, but surely there are SIDE EFFECTS? Well, you’re right. There are. Here are the side effects Hunter is experiencing.

1. Increased eye contact and the ability to maintain eye contact.

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2. He no longer needs Miralax and daily suppositories to go to the bathroom.

3. He is relaxed. His fists no longer remain in a clenched position with his nails digging into his palm, making his hands bleed.

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4. After eight years of only being able to sleep on his back, he can now roll to his side and sleep in a new position.

5. He now rides the school bus since Mom no longer worries about him having a bad seizure on the bus.

6. There have been no calls from the school for EMS.

But I guess a few side effects are the price a parent must pay for giving their child quality of life. That and leaving your entire life behind in another state.

Hunter with Charlotte Figi.
Hunter with Charlotte Figi.

Update 3/10/14: The Klepingers were on CNN today. Check it out here.