Such is the laser-story of the background to my reaction to what I discovered on FaceBook yesterday. [Perhaps FaceBook does serve some useful purpose, after all. Who knew?]
So what did I discover that has so completely garnered my attention? See for yourself.
You know, a very large part of me has to wonder why ... why is the use of such a discovery a big deal at all? Why are families forced to pack up and move across the country to get their child the treatment they need?
Perhaps it is the fact that I live in the Great White UP, where we have a system for the approval of the use of medical marijuana. I gather the situation is a little more cloudy in the United States.
Whatever the reason, I can tell you that without a moment's hesitation I would have tried cannabis for the Blue Jay in our darkest days. Yes, for the part of that time, she was only a toddler, but those seizures were robbing her of her life.
Although the situations are not identical, I strongly identified with the two families profiled in the video above. When we were living through our own personal nightmare, the ketogenic diet was the new kid on the block, looked down upon by medical professionals, and not just completely misunderstood by the general public but pretty much totally unheard of (essentially a step down from being completely misunderstood).
The food was much too "unpalatable", how can a child possibly survive without going to birthday parties, it's a regiment that is impossible for a family to maintain, no child will put up with it and, of course, it was much, much too unhealthy - we heard it all and I have a response for each and every one of them, although I won't bore you with that at the moment. Let's just say that families do what needs to be done and can be incredibly innovative and creative when need be. And done with a little care and attention, there is no need for the ketogenic diet to be so unhealthy.
The diet was our "miracle drug" (although, of course, not a drug) at the time. And I have never regretted it for one moment. Not when I fought with the doctors for months to get them to agree to merely try try it; not when we fought daily with the Blue Jay, herself, when we initially tried to get her to accept it and worked for months with a child psychologist to convince her to actually eat the food; not when, after going almost two years seizure-free on the diet, we lost control and essentially had to start all over again; and not the second time we lost control thanks to a doctor's neglect and the Blue Jay ended up in the hospital, not just actively seizing again but with dangerously low potassium levels.
Hard? Hell, yes.
Sorry, we gave six years of our and the Blue Jay's life to it? Hell, no.
So now you have a much more complete background to my response to the above video. Perhaps that's why I can't see the issue with using medical marijuana in this way. Instead of horror or concern, I was elated to learn of a new epilepsy treatment and fascinated to learn how, instead of growing plants to maximize the THC (the chemical that makes you "high") content, they actually manipulate to increase the CBD content, which is the compound that is effective in stopping the seizures.
The original post I saw on FaceBook, accompanying the above video, read like this:
Washington Post covers medical cannabis for pediatric epilepsy. What are your thoughts? How far would you go to save your child? We were happy, and a little nervous to tell our story so publicly. But I feel it is absolutely necessary. Families need to know this is an option, and they can work with their medical team to make the best decision for their child. ♥ HeatherI must confess I had some trouble grasping exactly why this family was at all nervous to tell their story, why they weren't, instead, just singing it from the rooftops.
But, hey, I am a lawyer by training so not totally clueless - yeah, yeah, I get that whole "illegal in some states" thing compounded with the likely cries of "Oh my God, what kind of parent would give children as young as toddlers marijuana on a daily basis? For heaven sake, call Child Protective Services immediately!". There's some in every crowd, you know ... but that, too, is a story best saved for another day.
So. Shortly after watching (and raving) about the above video, I found this one in my news feed.
Now I might disagree with the good researcher when he states that they know how most of the current anti-epileptic drugs work or don't work (and, by the by, he actually contradicts himself later in the interview when he notes most of the most effective anti-epileptic drugs were discovered by accident and they don't have clearly defined mechanisms of action for many of today's drugs), but to me, that is much less relevant than his comments on the "ethical issue" of giving marijuana to toddlers
After the interviewer notes that at a "headline level", the issue was still very much giving medical marijuana for toddlers, he asks the good doctor if he had any "ethical" issues with this. Apparently he does, "very much so", in fact, based on a long-term New Zealand study of people who had used marijuana, which found that the only group that showed permanent cognitive damage was moderate to heavy users of marijuana during adolescence.
Like it or not, not exactly a surprising result. But as noted in the interview, this study was looking at the effects of THC. And as noted in the first video, these plants are being bred to specifically lower the level of THC and increase the level of CBD.
Because, trust me, until you have actually lived that, You. Have. No. Clue.
I wonder how many people will only hear and remember those headline comments. I wonder how many people out there will actually listen to the entire interview, the defining moment of truth of which comes only at the end
When asked if he, personally, would use marijuana for his child, the answer was more than telling.
If that were my child and I had a child with difficult to control seizures and knowing the risk of uncontrolled seizures, if I had something that would control those seizures without any obvious major adverse effects on the child, that would be, as my personal decision, I would do it. Not as a clinical recommendation, as a parent myself.
. . .
Now if that was a child of mine and somebody offered me a less than perfect but effective treatment, I am going to say yes to it.Why? Because the good doctor is well aware of the risks of status epilepticus and SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy - a phenomena they tend not to tell parents about, by the way) and that the risks of these things happening dramatically increase in a person with poorly controlled seizures.
End of the day (and you will, no doubt, be happy to know, end of this post), the bottom line in is that if a new treatment for epilepsy that has thing kind of success rate can be found, naysayers, busy bodies and governments need to get the hell out of the way. Because, believe me, unless you live it, you. have. no.clue.