Today is like a new birthday for Abram... as it was one year ago now that we took a leap of faith and began using cannabis oil to treat our son's seizures.
With his diagnoses: UBE2A, pineal cyst and grey matter heteropia/cortical dysplasia he will never have a normal EEG nor is he "cured" of his Epilepsy. (I'm only stating that so people don't confuse his current success with not needing to worry anymore because Epilepsy is a cruel beast for which there is no cure and we must always be prepared!)
However, we have been given a great gift. We have been able to see our son thrive and grow. We have been able to wean over 3/4 of his last Benzo. We have changed minds and maybe even a hospital policy.
We have fought for law changes and have met our local Representatives, U.S. Senator and Congressman to tell them our story in hope that it helps change their mind so they help other people too.
Abram has come a long way physically and cognitively. He's giving us kisses, making sounds, growing like a weed, becoming social (and BOSSY!) And he's finally able to just BE a little boy who loves kitties, fire trucks and who thinks farts are hilarious.
If and when another seizure strikes, I know that we have amazing support because this journey also brought incredible people into our lives whom we never would have met otherwise.
Cannabis oil gave Abe a quality of life we never knew existed. I never expected to be here. I had no idea I would have to fight for law changes to get a medicine our sons doctor felt was best, yet here we are.
Abe has taught me so much and brought so much love and light into my life. Happy Seizure-Free Birthday, Bubster! In another week you turn 4! Mama loves you so much!!!!!!
We use Haleigh's' Hope and it has changed our lives.
I think many of you can recall the mad dash I was making last spring and summer to be able to obtain CBD legally for my son, Abram. After having very scary and serious side effects on the pharmaceutical drugs Keppra and Klonopin, we had decided to pursue CBD as an option (at the urging of our Neurologist) however due to Unity Point's stance on CBD - he was unable to help us get the Cannabidiol Registration Card.
At that point, I began my fight: both for my child's health care and diagnosis and for his personal freedoms to try cannabis as a treatment option. I wrote to every single Republican Senator as well as every single Representative in the Republican House (but that's another post entirely).
I must be honest in saying that as a mother trying to fight for her child's rights - it is very disheartening to say that out of 24 Iowa Senators - only 5 have ever responded to my concerns and questions regarding my son's healthcare and his rights as an Iowan and an American. As a parent with a special needs child, I should be spending my son's nap time as my own down time but instead I sit in front of this computer tapping away on the keys begging for anyone and everyone to LISTEN.
When I began writing to the Senators and House Members, as a mother sharing Abram's story - my son's story has changed immensely. First, he was a little boy needing legal access to CBD and I was begging for help since our city's own Children's Hospital was not helping us gain legality. Now he is a child who is TWO HUNDRED AND FIVE DAYS SEIZURE FREE and I am a mother who finally holds a Cannabidiol Registration Card in her hands today. However, they need to realize that in order to get the card, my son had to endure another MRI, a spinal tap, numerous meetings with geneticists, genetic researchers and medical researchers who were trying to help us. My son finally has a diagnosis that is incredibly rare and the only other family world-wide who shares this same mutation lost a child at age 11 to an epileptic seizure. These facts make me worry, make me squirm and make me realize even more WE NEED ACCESS NOW.
So here I am, over 100 e-mails deep just to our Iowa Senators to which only five of whom responded to my concerns. My issue with writing to our state senators is this: If you have a health issue like my son's - they don't want to hear about it unless you are in their district. I hear time and time again that I need to contact my own Representative (I already have) and to contact my own Senator (he's been to our home and met my family in person).
Health concerns of a toddler is not a "district issue". It is an Iowan issue. It is an American issue. It is also a world-wide issue and phenomenon that we are dealing with. Once again, my zip code should NOT dictate if my son's story is worth responding to.
I have a friend whose child suffers similar issues to Abram and her family was DENIED access to the Cannabidiol Registration Card because her Neurologist resides at a Level 4 Epilepsy Unit out-of-state. So, despite the fact that he is the best-of-the-best in the country and supports the use of cannabidiol, that physician is not counted due to the fact that he is not an Iowan Neurologist. How is that fair? When you have a child who has rare diagnoses like many of Iowa's most fragile constituents, you are also going to be punished for being forced to get care out-of-state because our own hospitals aren't equipped or are unwilling to help our children?
My son is 205 Days Seizure Free. (My son was healed illegally for 163 of them.)
I am not a criminal. Please quit making parents choose between being lawful and being a good and present parent. Most importantly, please, take the time to respond to the parents of suffering children in your state. Please stop making children wait. We need action from you.
Many thanks to Senator Brad Zaun, Senator Charles Schneider, Senator Jake Chapman, Senator Tim Kraayenbrink and Senator Michael Breitbach for taking the time to respond to my concerns. Your time and attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.
Just before Christmas last week, we received a phone call from our Genetic Counselor at the University of Iowa. Over the summer we had met with a Geneticist again after our son had several new diagnoses and we were thankfully too impatient to wait another year to pursue answers.
The answer to the cause of all of our son's medical diagnoses is officially called "UBE2A X-Linked Mental Retardation." It is rare and we are the first case that the University of Iowa has ever seen. There are only 8 other cases noted world-wide and counting ourselves and another family I was lucky enough to stumble upon via Facebook of all places - that totals just 10 cases amongst just 7 families so far. This has absolutely blown my mind.
I will admit that I sobbed through reading the entire case study that was written in 2006. It was hard reading that out of all 8 patients cited in the study that none of them spoke. Other commonalities include my son's pineal cyst, seizures, his "dysmorphic facial features", large fontanelle (that didn't close until he was nearly 3), hypotonia, funky toe nails, puffy feet, skin abnormalities, his intellectual disability, fused horseshoe kidney, seizures and his brain abnormalities as well.
We were told that the Geneticists are officially learning from Abram and that there wasn't anything that they could tell us to do besides what we are doing already. Abram has been in multiple therapies a week since before his first birthday and gained the ability to walk just last Christmas. Reading that he may never speak hit me hard but I am doing what I can do to help him communicate the best. We are already in Speech twice a week, have been working on Feeding Therapy for over a year and he has Occupational Therapy as well every week. We are doing exactly what we need to be doing to give our son the best life possible.
The SLPs we have working with Abram are amazing: one works towards Neuro-Development with breathing, pressure points and learning some signs while the other works on eye contact and making requests appropriately as well as mimicking gestures and hand-movements. All these tasks require the hand-eye coordination that he needs so badly to be able to sign better vs. approximations and to eventually learn how to use PECS.
Searching for an answer and a diagnosis was a difficult task. There are many people out there who feel uncomfortable with genetic counseling and feel that physicians "tear their children apart" visually. When doctors and specialized physicians look at my son they see macrocephaly, dysmorphic facial features, a transverse palmer crease, hypotonia, diastasis recti, hypoplastic toenails, hypotonia and an epileptic. I was honestly RELIEVED when we met our first Developmental Specialist who looked at my child and starting at his head went down his entire body pointing out the physical markers of what she knew to be a part of a bigger picture.
We now know that "bigger picture" is the UBE2A gene mutation.
With Genetic Counseling comes the discussion that you could pass this on to another child. Abram's condition is "x-linked" which means that the mother is a carrier OR it could happen spontaniously. I plan to get bloodwork done to find out if I carry this gene mutation and what precautions I need to take for my own health, if any.
Genetic counseling from here focuses primarily on reproduction. Despite the fact that I personally hadn't planned on having more children - this diagnosis would not prevent me from having another child. The gentle tip-toeing that happens when it comes to diagnoses like this and future pregnancies makes me sad. To think someone would NOT want to have a child because of this diagnosis breaks my heart. This little boy has taught me so much about life, love and to slow down for all the little things. His smile can melt the most bitter heart and his hugs make all my petty thoughts go right out the window. He is Abram and the world has so much to offer him. I would choose him all over again. Without this diagnosis I would have missed out on an entirely different world - a world I could not picture myself without.
Does this diagnosis change things for Abram? No. We will have to continue to do what we have always been doing. We will provide all that we can to ensure that he has the best life possible. Will sharing our story possibly help someone else down the road? Yes. Absolutely, Yes!
Abram will now inevitably be a patient in a future case study on UBE2A. Optimistically, when another parent reads about "Patient #9", he will give another worried parent hope that their child will be able to do so many more things that the case study states. This is a new syndrome. Perhaps someday it will have a name and it is most likely under diagnosed.
So much of Abram's future depends on intervention and therapy now. The only thing that I can do is to continue to share our story and our successes. I hope that by doing so I can meet more people with this diagnosis who are going through similar struggles. I hope that Abram can blow this whole "absent speech" thing out of the water but if he doesn't I will help teach him other ways to communicate. His facial expressions already say so much more than words ever could. Life is too short to concentrate on the things that he cannot do.
Abram can light up a room with his smile. His laughter can wipe away any tears. His fierce love (ahem - obsession) of kitties is heart warming. His hugs light up my word.
Diagnosis or no.... there is ALWAYS HOPE.
With love from Iowa,
**Updated to say this: Even our Geneticist felt extremely uncomfortable using the term "mental retardation". The case study that I was given to learn about my son's condition began by telling me what a burden people with this diagnosis are on society. Sadly, so many people have used the words used to describe a medical condition and use them in a hurtful way towards people. Although this is our son's medical diagnosis - there are better terms for this condition such as "intellectual disability" and I hope that the medical profession catches up. A medical diagnosis is what it is. It isn't anything to be ashamed over. It is a diagnosis and nothing more. It doesn't define our son, nor will it ever define him. Abram is more than a diagnosis and more than a word. If you find yourself using "mentally retarded" as an insult to someone - please think twice about it. You are hurting more people than you know.**
Hello, Everyone! Last Friday, we were given the opportunity to meet with US Senator Joni Ernst. I had previously met with her Regional Director and had written her a lengthy letter back in October. The day after I had posted my letter here, I had a phone call from Washington D.C. letting me know that Senator Ernst wanted to meet my family and talk with us in person about our concerns regarding cannabis oil.
We met Senator Ernst at the Federal Building in downtown Des Moines with our friend and fellow advocate, Sally with the Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis group. Senator Ernst was waiting for us and kindly greeted us at the door with a smile. She even held the door open for us so I could push Abram through the door and into the office in his stroller. We were able to sit with the Senator in a room where she apologized for the mix-up in responses and immediately wanted to hear all about Abram and the struggles that he has had.
It's always hard to figure out what to say when folks ask that particular question because there is SO MUCH to share and it's been a long 3-and-a-half-year struggle to get here. We are finally in a place where he is functioning and not in pain, so the little boy people see today, is not the same boy you would have seen seven months ago. So, I started our story with last October and shared with her my largest concern about our journey regarding Pharmaceutical Drugs. Pharmaceutical drugs can be helpful in some ways but in some cases the detrimental effects it has on a child is horrific.
I had taken the time to print out all the known side effects of the last two Pharmaceutical drugs that my son had been prescribed. I made sure to highlight each of the side effects that Abram has experienced in yellow so that the Senator could see the side effects my son had to personally struggle with. For just two prescription drugs, there was a total of 14 pages worth of known side effects.
The first drug I shared with her was Klonopin, a benzodiazepine. According to the Stanford School of Medicine, "Klonopin is very habit forming (addictive) and may become so in only 2-4 weeks of use, causing psychological and physical dependence." In addition to and much to my horror, Stanford states that "Klonopin's effects on children, including possible long-term effects, have not been thoroughly studied."
The side effects my son has experienced on Klonopin include drowsiness, behavioral disturbances, irritability, speech problems, constipation, agitation, sleep disturbances and more. Many of the side effects that are listed, I may not know due to the fact that he is non-verbal and he can't tell me what is hurting. I made sure to let her know that BEFORE we added in a benzodiazepine, my son was able to speak at least 3 words and has since worked nearly an entire year now to get his words back but to no avail. I also let her know that thanks to cannabis, we have been able to cut this medicine by more than 1/3 and are hoping to wean him completely off this drug at some point.
The second drug I shared with Senator Ernst was Keppra. The known list of side effects of Keppra wasn't quite as lengthy as Klonopin but it also hasn't been around quite as long either. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects this drug has on children younger than 4 years of age! Yet, this drug is being given to children well under the age of 4 without anyone blinking an eye. No one is crying for more research like they do for cannabis. My child was only 2 when he was prescribed that medicine and it was a drug that our local Neurologist told us he would never have put him on! We had been sent out-of-state for help and they didn't listen when I told them that our child already had behavioral issues. Some of the known side effects of Keppra include aggressive, angry, anxiety, change in personality, crying, headache, irritability, quick to react emotionally, restlessness, shaking, trouble sleeping, etc. To follow-up what "Keppra Rage" was, I then showed Senator Ernst the video of my son on Keppra. The day I made that video was the day I finally decided upon trying cannabis oil and we have never looked back.
We let Senator Ernst know that my son has not had a seizure since we started Abram on Cannabis oil in June and that we are going on six months of happiness since we started him on CBD. I hope that by sharing the side effects of the pharmaceutical drugs versus a little boy in real-life who is alive and thriving thanks to cannabis, that the Senator understands how important her support is in the Senate.
When the topic of the safety of cannabis arose, I showed the Senator the labs of the particular strain we are using. I can get more information about what is and isn't in my particular bottle of cannabis oil than the information I can get from a pharmaceutical company about a particular drug. Children like Abram are so sensitive to everything that having a natural, organic choice in lieu of a chemical option is incredibly important. Just last month we were given Klonopin made by a different manufacturer and it had a negative impact on Abe. We happen to have a great Pharmacist who changed it right back but many people aren't aware of these sensitivities.
Senator Ernst then talked about how she wanted to see more research done before she made any decisions on specific bills. At that point, I gave her a hand-written note with the information for the US Patent regarding Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. I let her know that according to the patent currently held by the United States Department of Health, cannabinoids are non-toxic. The patent even states: "No signs of toxicity nor serious side effects have been observed...even in large acute doses of 700 mg/day." I also let her know that the cited research within that patent goes back to 1942. Our son currently needs what our Neurologist refers to as a "micro dose" of CBD and has seen great seizure control and cognitive gains. I'm fighting for an expanded medical marijuana bill because as my son grows - CBD may not be the only thing he will need. It is realistic for us to prepare for the need for something stronger and CBD unfortunately doesn't work for all kids. Every child deserves a legal chance at being seizure free.
We quickly ran out of time but I gave the Senator one of the "Cannabis is Medicine" tees we made to raise awareness in Iowa before we left. I hope one day I will get to see her wear it. In the end, I hope that our meeting has helped show US Senator Joni Ernst that cannabis is medicine and that it can help. I hope that it will help her realize that marijuana needs to be re-scheduled (or even de-scheduled) so that research our Politicians claim needs to done, can actually be done legally and at the Federal Level.
I hope that our story helps her see that Medical Marijuana is more about health and quality of life than it is about someone getting high. I hope that she sees that expanding the uses of this medicine could help thousands if not millions of people.
Many thanks to US Senator Ernst for meeting my family and hearing our story. It meant a lot to my family that she took the time to meet with us and hear about Abram and how cannabis has changed his life. Now we are hoping to get her support in Washington D.C.! Regardless, she was kind to us and she gives a good hug.
I've been trying to make a point of taking a few minutes each day to share something about how Epilepsy affected our family. It's only been a little over a year since we got an official "Epilepsy" diagnosis. However, it has been with us since the day my son was born. Unfortunately, it just took the doctors over three long years to figure it out.
As a newborn, my son never stopped screaming, crying, writhing in pain and rarely slept. If he did, it was never longer than a couple of hours and then it was right back to the screaming. Nothing soothed him. Nothing made him feel better, although sometimes the sound of the vacuum would relax him until the moment I dared turn it off. (I read that trick in a colic book.)
Our first Pediatrician failed us miserably. He not only missed many genetic markers that are obvious to most other doctors we have met, he brushed off all of my concerns and claimed that I was a "nervous mom" and that my son's issues were nothing more than him "being a little colicky" and "acid reflux".
It took the first ten months of his life for someone to listen and even then it was an off-chance meeting with a Pediatrician we'd never met who asked me what was wrong with Abram's eyes and had concerns for his large head. Thanks to that man, we were referred on to Neurology and we started on our journey to answers but they certainly didn't come easy.
Since the Summer of 2013, we have seen dozens of specialists including numerous Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Epileptologists, Nephrologists, Endocrinologists, Geneticists, ENTs, Developmental Specialists, Cranio-Facial Surgeons, Orthopaedic Surgeons, Physiatrists and more.
Last month was literally the first month where Abram did not have to go to the Hospital or have any Doctor's Appointments since the day he was born!!! We spent it going on lots of walks, attending all of his therapies, going on a train ride, going on a horse-drawn wagon and checking out a Fire Truck at our tiny town's Halloween shindig. It was incredibly refreshing to have a month off.
Yesterday, we traveled to our University Hospital again where we had a follow-up with Abram's Developmental Specialist. She stated that I am doing everything that I CAN do, so that was a relief. We were informed that with the new "Neuronal Migration Disorder" diagnoses that he now qualifies for the Brain Injury Waiver and for the Health and Disability Waiver in our state - so if he should ever outgrow his current Intellectual Disability Waiver - we will have already applied for the other Waivers in hopes of never having a lapse in his care.
The Mayo Clinic gifted us an answer after we'd been fighting for so long to get one. I feel lucky that we have a wonderful Pediatrician (she started her own Special Needs Kids' Clinic) who went to bat for us to be able to get us there. It took five long months of waiting to get the referral but it was well worth it.
If you are fighting for a Diagnosis for your child, don't give up. I know that it's a long and difficult road. I personally had a lot of people ask me why I wanted a diagnosis, it is just a "label" after all. I cannot disagree more with that thought at all.
For us, a diagnoses meant everything. We needed to know what caused our son's Epilepsy and Global Developmental Delays so we could know how to best treat it. What we finally learned at Mayo explained the cause, which in turn can help us with his treatments. The information and "labels" that we got will help us help give him the best possible life by giving him the therapies that he needs the most.
Some of his new diagnoses include a Neuronal Migration Disorder (Cortical Dysplasia), issues with his hippocami twisting and Mesial Temporal Lobe Sclerosis. These issues explain nearly all of his other symptoms and diagnoses. There is no treatment or cure for his migration disorder and they types of seizures he suffers from do not have a surgical approach that can help them.
What we can do is keep doing what we are already doing: therapy and lots of it. Abram is currently in Speech, Occupational Therapy and Feeding Therapy. He "graduated" Physical therapy when he started walking but he will have to go back within the next couple of years so he can learn how to conquer things like going up and down stairs and jumping. He lost his words with his last round of serious neurological issues last spring and has yet to regain them but he is beginning to make more and more sounds and is finally able to point and use a pincher grasp at 3!
Abram's life is changing. It's not easy. It's a lot of work for him but he doesn't know it any other way. His fierce willingness to fight for mobility, to speak and to keep fighting to learn and re-learn how to do that blows any of my life's issues out of the water. This kid is incredible. He's my little fighter. My little badass. My little Abram Mayhem.
My little boy amazes me every single day. I love that when I look back at just a few weeks ago (let alone months ago), I can see all these incredible improvements. Many of which the "professionals" told us he may never be able to do. Abram has a serious knack for proving people wrong. We have Cannabis Oil to thank for much of it in addition to the hard work he puts in every single week at therapy with his Occupational, Feeding and Speech Therapists. We are lucky to have accumulated an amazing team of therapists and SCL/Respite providers who work with our family to give him the best life possible, as well. If you are reading this - Thank You.
When our Neurologist first told us about cannabidiol, it was in regards to how shocked he was at how well some of his other kids were doing. I remember him telling me specifically about one child who came in walking and talking when before they were unable to talk or willfully be examined. When I heard him say that cannabis helped a child gain the ability to talk on TOP of having the ability to gain control over his seizures - my heart got hopeful.
It took me months to decide on trying it, despite the numerous times that it was brought up. I was nervous. And scared. But if you know us or have read this Blog, you know how Abram has suffered. You know how many doctors have told us incorrect diagnoses including one Neurologist who told us he was "fine", an Orthopaedic Surgeon who told us he may never walk and a Pediatrician who missed absolutely everything about my son's health issues for the first 10 months of his life.
Before Cannabis Oil:
After Cannabis Oil:
He hasn't gained his words back (he had Mama, Papa and Cat before March), but he is making new sounds all the time and is working incredibly hard for his Speech Therapists. Seizures stole his words but they didn't steal his determination and his inane desire to prove everyone wrong and do all the things he sets his mind to.
It has officially been a year since Abram was officially diagnosed with Epilepsy. I had no idea what the next 365 days would bring us. But here we are! It only took five MRIs, five EEGs, four long hospital stays, four Neurologists, four Neurosurgeons, four world-reknown skull based surgeons, three Epileptologists, three VEEGs, three sleep medicine doctors, two Nephrologists, two Endocrinologists, two ENTs, two Genetic Counselors, two Pediatric Development Specialists, one Craniofacial Surgeon and one Ambulance Ride.
But today, I can say "My son is 127 days seizure free, today!" I realize that as he grows our need for stronger medicine will most likely rise - which is why I am fighting for changes in our laws.
If you live in Iowa and have been touched by our story, please write to our Legislators! I also encourage you to write to our US Congress by writing to your Senators and your Representatives! Help spread the positive message that Cannabis IS Medicine.
Dear US Senator Joni Ernst,
I was in the Drake Diner in Des Moines, Iowa the day you came to celebrate your win for the US Senate. I was sitting in the booth right by the front door. I had my small son who was two at the time and you had a large group in the back who cheered loudly and clapped for you as you came in.
You didn't notice that when your group of supporters began screaming for you, that my son slammed his head twice on the edge of table. The noise your group suddenly made (without regard to any of the other patrons) both terrified and overwhelmed him. The metal edging on those old vintage-style tables there really did a number on my son's forehead and he had a lump and a bruise for over a week. Two of your supporters noticed my son in hysterics as they walked by. Instead of smiling or offering some form of apology for the uproar, they sneered at us as I was trying to calm him down. I'm sure they saw the huge welt on his forehead and thought of me as a terrible mother. They were both still smoking outside when we left.
You didn’t acknowledge my son that day in the Diner and you aren’t acknowledging him now. So, it didn’t surprise me when you accidentally sent me the response to "crude oil" instead of "cannabis oil" to my e-mail. It’s those little attention-to-details things one has to do when someone truly cares about their people. I was pleased to see that I received an additional e-mail today with your response to "cannabis oil" instead of "crude oil" today.
The bare-boned truth here is you didn't take the time to actually hear what my real concerns were at all. My name was just pasted into a bulk e-mail (just like the "crude oil" response) and sent on out, without any real regard to what is happening to people in the Unites States of America, let alone your home state, Iowa. You yourself claimed in your campaign that you are a “normal, everyday” Iowan. If that were true, you would listen to the concerns of the mothers and families in this state who are reaching out to you for help in Iowa and in Congress.
I was fully aware that you supported the extremely limited bill in 2014, as an Iowa Senator. That is precisely why I reached out to you. You spent a great deal of your letter explaining to me what CBD is. Clearly, I already know what Cannabis Oil is used for or I wouldn't have been reaching out to you for help in the first place. My son has Epilepsy, a Genetic Brain Disorder, a Rare Chromosome Disorder and a long list of other diagnoses you have never heard of and thanks to CBD, my son is 125 days seizure free today!
I reached out to you because I wanted you to know that the "narrow limited use of a marijuana plant" is not working for my particular situation or hundreds of other families. I wanted you to know that children are suffering in your state. Parents are forced to walk a supposed "grey area" in the law and fear that their children will be removed from the home because they are doing what is right. I reached out to you because our own Neurologist (who we'd seen since my son was 10 months old) told us we should to try CBD and was unable to help us. I reached out to you because our state capitol's only Children's Hospital will not back its use without FDA Approval and our Neurologist had to follow protocol. I reached out because that same Hospital actively lobbies against important bills that could help children like mine at the State House. I reached out to you because suffering children and adults need you to stand up and do what is right in Congress to fix things for families like mine.
Never once in my conversation with your Regional Director did I request "the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries and the use of medical marijuana in general" as you mentioned in your letter, although I feel that is the obvious thing to do when you pass a law for things like CBD but don't allow access, like we have here in Iowa.
What I did request was help for my son and for the children in Iowa to have a chance at using a natural, plant based medicine as opposed to the Pharmaceuticals that just keep piling on with every serious seizure. Pharmaceutical Drugs were the worst thing that happened to my son, thus far in his life. Not only did they create new and worsening types of seizures - they took away his ability to walk (for which he worked for years to be able to do) and they took away his words after a serious fit of side effects from the Klonopin. (We later found out he was on too much but that took us going to a World Reknown Hospital hundreds of miles away from home and five months waiting on referrals.)The Keppra he was put him on made him have serious behavioral issues where he did not stop screaming or crying for nearly 14 days straight before our Neurologist pulled him right back off of it.
You claimed in your letter that the "concept of using marijuana for medical purposes is relatively new and the science surrounding it is still developing" but that simply is not true. The research is there and in fact, the United States Patent 6,630,507 now held by the US Department of Health states cannabinoids are "substantially free of psychoactive or psychotoxic effects, are substantially non-toxic even at very high doses, and have good tissue penetration, for example crossing the blood brain barrier." In order to hold a patent, did the Government not do enough research themselves? Cited references within the US Patent go back to 1942 so clearly it is not a new concept at all.
My son is not a sympathetic story. My son is a little boy who deserves the same quality of life that all of six of your grandchildren deserve. He deserves the right to think and laugh and smile and be awake and alive instead of being drugged into a stupor on Pharmaceutical drugs whose side effects can be worse and more damaging than the seizures themselves.
If you truly understood how patients, including children like my son are struggling, you would not hesitate to stand up and do what is right in Congress. You have the power to help suffering Iowans and Americans alike.
Dear Mrs. Miller,
Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the use of marijuana for medical purposes. It is important for me to hear from folks in Iowa on policy matters such as this. Additionally, thank you for sharing your personal story about your son and your family.
Currently, some form of marijuana usage is now legal in 38 states, including Iowa. As you know, the medical use of cannabis oil extract was legalized in our state in 2014, and I supported this measure during my time as an Iowa State Senator. Cannabis oil is derived from marijuana plants and is typically used to treat epilepsy. It has high concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive antioxidant, and low concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mind-altering compound found in marijuana. Though I supported this narrow, limited use of a marijuana plant extract, I have concerns about the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries and the use of medical marijuana in general.
The concept of using marijuana for medical purposes is relatively new and the science surrounding it is still developing. Before being introduced to the market, commercially available pharmaceuticals are subject to years of research and testing in order to prove their efficacy and safety. As you may know, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, a label assigned by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to drugs which it deems have high abuse potential and no medicinal value. Many contend that this classification makes it more difficult for scientists and researchers to study marijuana.
I understand that a number of patients, including children like your son, are struggling with chronic diseases and use marijuana for treatment. More research needs to be done on the medical use of marijuana and I would also like to see more evidence that the substance can be distributed in a safe, responsible, and controlled manner.
Please know that I will continue to keep your views in mind as Congress continues to work on this issue. Feel free to contact my office with any further information, as I always enjoy hearing from Iowans.
Joni K. Ernst
United States Senator
Last night was my first town hall meeting and the very first time that I spoke publicly about my son's health care issues and needs. It was hard for me to do and very emotional. I was so nervous when I was handed that microphone that my heart was beating in my chest. I honestly can't even remember exactly what it is that I even said but it went something like this:
"Hi. My name is Erin Miller. My son has been a patient of Unity Point since he was a tiny baby. Your Neurology Department found the mass in his brain at 10 months old. They guided us through his first Ambulance Ride and following Hospital Stay and they were the ones who gave us our son's Epilepsy Diagnosis last October. Your Neurologist also was the person who encouraged us to try CBD and then was unable to sign our card for us. So, I'm curious as to why your Hospital has a policy against CBD when your Physicians feel otherwise".
As I said this, I could see the woman sitting next to me furiously shaking her head "no" and instead of allowing the Nurse Practitioner (who was the one speaking at this event) to answer, the woman seated next to me was handed the microphone.
She introduced herself as Chaney Yeast, and promptly informed me that what I was saying was incorrect and that they do not have a "policy" against CBD. I don't recall what else she said because I was absolutely floored at what I was hearing. As soon as I heard her say her name I knew exactly who she was. Unity Point's lobbyist who fought AGAINST the CBD Bill in 2014 was sitting right next to me. She also happens to be the Manager of the Regional Child Protection Center at Blank Children's Hospital.
When I first started getting involved in legislature, I read about Chaney Yeast in the news because she was the woman who stated publicly that “We don’t know if families use it for their children that maybe four years from now they could contract cancer or something like that.”
I found it interesting that a woman in the crowd was trying to tell me what I have lived and experienced for the whole of 2015 was untrue. I let her know (with microphone in hand) that their own COO had spoken with me on the matter and that I have a letter from him admitting that they won't back it until the FDA approves the use of such oils.
We each only had 3 minutes so that conversation went quickly but I scooted next to her on the bleacher and showed the before and after photos of my son and told her of all the improvements that he has made courtesy of the CBD. I explained to her that her Hospital was unable to help us on more than one occasion and that it was difficult to understand how a Physician can tell us behind closed doors to try a medicine and then not give us legal access by signing our Application for a Registration Card. I reminded her that I'd written to their CEO and their VP only to be ignored. But she held fast to saying that none of their Neurologists feel comfortable with CBD or signing for anyone.
I was hoping that hearing what we'd gone through with the ups and downs of diagnoses and medical emergencies and their own physicians throwing their hands up in the air and admitting defeat in not knowing how to help - and admitting to us that they didn't know what to do would make her realize how poorly their hospital policy is affecting people. But... she held on to her point that Unity Point does not have a "policy" against CBD - that they are just waiting for FDA Approval. However, they as a Hospital actively lobbied against the CBD Bill in 2014 and will clearly continue to do so which breaks my heart for all of the other children who suffer, who need help and who are being ravaged by pharmaceutical drugs.
So, I decided to look up the definition of "policy" to see for myself if I was missing something. What the difference is between not acting on helping a patient (while waiting for approval from the FDA) and the literal definition of "policy" was. Here is what I found:
noun, pol·i·cy often attributive \ˈpä-lə-sē\
Definition of POLICY1. a : prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs
b : management or procedure based primarily on material interest
2. a : a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions
b : a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental body
Perhaps I am just reading the Dictionary wrong but it seems to me that their actions definitely prove that what they are doing is indeed a "policy" but that is clearly my own opinion. As a mother whose child has been directly impacted by this (non) policy - this is just hard to swallow. I just don't understand why they aren't helping.
She tried telling me that we are on the same team and fighting for the same things but I disagree. I don't think that it is okay for a Physician to tell a scared set of parents with a sick little boy that a) they don't know how to help and b) tell them that they should give CBD a try and then not actually be able to help. She told me that she knows that none of them are comfortable signing for the cards. In my opinion, it is wrong for them not to sign when they themselves felt that it would benefit our child. A hospital's non-policy or hesitence to not help and even hinder the cause says everything that it can possibly say without even uttering a word.
Clearly, I am thankful that our Physician told us to try CBD a handful of times before we finally decided to pursue that option. If he hadn't done so - my son would NOT be seizure free today. My son wouldn't have those awful side effects from CBD like cognitive gains, sleeping, eating, playing with other children, actually being able to play with toys and improving on his fine and gross motor skills like a champ. That physician saved my son's life. And even though I am angry at him for not standing up for what is right or what he felt was best for our child... I am thankful for him telling us about it. I understand that he is an employee and has to follow the guidelines set upon him by his employer like anybody else. It just happened to affect my family personally and I took it personal as most rational people would.
Last night was an emotional night for me and of course I barely slept a wink because all I could think about was "what if". But I can't think that way anymore. I'm changing all those "what ifs" to What Now.
I am doing all that I can for my son. I am a good mother. I am a fighter. I am an Advocate and now that makes me an Activist, too. Standing up for what you believe in is hard. I sat in those bleachers with tears pouring out of my eyes as I spoke to that woman but I said what I wanted to say.
We definitely aren't fighting the same fight but in the end, she gave me her card and I shook her hand. I just hope that she listened and actually heard.
TODAY marks 115 days SEIZURE FREE courtesy of CBD.
Hey there Everyone!
I'm feeling scared lately. I had been asked to do a story on the News - just sharing Abram's story from the start and how hard it has been to first and foremost - get proper medical care for a child that is so very medically complex and lastly, having legal access to a medicine that he needs so badly. I chickened out on doing the story after getting advice from other parents/advocates in other legal states.
I have written every Iowa Senator twice and have only gotten a few responses. I have written every single Iowa House Member twice as well and have started down the long line of calling home phone numbers (don't worry - they are posted publicly on their own website and completely legal). Most don't return my phone calls either.
I have spoken with US Senator Grassley himself, I have spoken with US Senator Joni Ernst's Regional Director (still waiting for an official response from her) and I have met with the Iowa Governor's Health Advisor since the Governor is entirely too busy to meet with a worried mama regarding a bill he signed himself.
I was told by the Governor's Health Advisor to reach out to the Iowa Department of Health who were by the way, absolutely sympathetic with our story - as is most people who hear it - but the law is the law and there is no way to get a Registration Card through the back door as I was led to believe. Yesterday was a hard day after several phone calls and exciting prospects only be be shoved back in the mud.
I'm trying but I'm getting the steam knocked out of me. Only 72 people have been issued cards in our state. That is not many people getting help compared to the large amount of money our state spent on implementing said cards. And when you realize that of those 72 cards - most of them are probably care givers over actual patients. The fact is - when you sign up for a card - you also have to sign up anyone and everyone who would need to be able to administer the medicine. So for our family - we would need 3 cards just for us. However, that isn't even counting any of his care providers like Respite or SCL who can administer psychotropic drugs like Valium to my child in an emergency without needing such things in place. My son CAN NOT overdose on a medicine like CBD but we have tubes of Emergency Meds that are considered controlled substances that could kill him if he were overdosed on them and no one blinks an eye. How is it that people are MISSING THIS?!
Being vocal about this is scary. Being open about it is scary. I backed out of the News Story out of FEAR. Fear that someone will take my child away. Fear of being thrown in jail for doing what is right. Fear of having his medicine taken away even though one of the Country's Best Hospitals who have a Level 4 Epilepsy standing back and support it 100% and I have proof of that within his own medical records.
I'm sad and I'm frustrated and I want to do the right thing. Standing up for what you believe in has been such a vital role in my life - my whole life. Doing that is right is scary. My son is seizure free and that is what matters the most. But the story that goes with it..... matters. He is not just a "sympathetic story" as Gov. Chris Christie claimed when CBD was brought up in the Republican debate weeks ago. My son is a boy. A human. A child. My baby. My LIFE. My absolutely everything.
And to think that me standing up and saying "Hey... our own Hospital and Physician betrayed us, the law isn't working for us and no one is helping." can land me in jail just because I said it publicly is horrifying.
I've tried my hardest to do the right thing and play by the rules. I have written so many emails when I could be relaxing or reading a book. In my downtime, I am pleading for help from anyone who will listen. I don't get to relax or have "me" time because I am always having to fight for my son's rights. When you have to fight so hard just to get good health care - only to turn around and have to fight for his medicine - it is hard not to get angry.
Change needs to happen and it needs to happen now. For him. For you. For your kids. For all of us.
All parents have their breaking point and last Wednesday, I had mine.
We'd been gone for 8 days for our trip to the Mayo Clinic for their Diagnostic Team and my son had had enough. I had had enough. We just got home from a nearly 4 hour car ride where my son whined nearly the entire way and it'd been more than 48 hours since either one of us got some sleep.
My father had finally urged me to put him down for a nap and for me to do the same. So, I put Abram down in his crib, made sure we did our normal routine of sound-maker, lavendar lotion back-rub and crib soother. Plus - the almighty blanket fluffing. But he just started to cry. I figured he was just over-tired so I went into my closet - to CRY. I just couldn't handle it anymore.
Then I heard him screaming. An awful scream. And I ran in there to find my son had screamed so loud and so hard that he'd made himself projectile vomit all over himself, his bedding, through the crib slats and all over the floor.
I yelled up the stairs to ask for my parents to help and my mom came running to clean him up while I changed all his sheets and scraped vomit off his pillows. We got him put back down and he fell right asleep while I fell into a heap on the couch and just BAWLED.
I felt like a horrible mother. I felt like a failure. I felt lost. I felt alone. And I felt ANGRY.
Since the day my son was born we have had to FIGHT. We had to tell the Nurses his lips and fingers were purple. We had to tell our Pediatrician - and another and another that SOMETHING WAS WRONG before anyone would listen. I KNEW he was having seizures before the "professionals" even agreed with me.
When you have a sick kid you lose everything: Your friends who you thought would always be there. Your family who just don't understand so they don't bother to say anything. Your faith in people and doctors and even the universe. It is HARD and no one gets it except for the people who live it.
At Mayo we were treated with Dignity and Respect. My old videos that I showed for seizure examples were confirmed as just that. When my son was collapsing and our local doctors turned us away and told us they couldn't help us and shipped us off.. it turned out that they were overdosing my child on a benzo. Those collapsing spells weren't new seizures - they were a side effect of TOO MUCH MEDICINE.
At Mayo, we were NOT frowned upon or shunned for giving our child CBD. At Mayo, we weren't told that we needed to add yet another harmful pharmaceutical with a myriad of dangerous side effects to our toddlers medicine regiment. Does that mean it will always be so? I don't know. He has EPILEPSY. Our pediatrician said it best when she said "I can't tell you what the next year will bring you. But I can tell you it's not your fault".
Today, when speaking with US Senator Charles Grassley - I admitted that although I tried my best to follow the law here - and went through all of the proper routes - I was unable to obtain the Registration Card for my son. Due to that reason, I was forced to do what was best for my child and that I was happy to report that my son is nearly three months free of physical seizures.
I did not get a congratulations. Or an "I'm happy to hear that". Instead I was quickly dismissed to another one of his advisors who talked to me about all the things that Grassley is doing to try and change things but that CBD cannot be rescheduled until there is more "research". I reminded him that such research would not be able to be done UNTIL they rescheduled CBD as a Schedule II drug - due to the fact that it is illegal at the Federal Level - no research can be done until that happens. I got a chuckle and a bad joke about "The Chicken and the Egg" metaphor.
In light of the need for "more research" I asked specifically how it is that the United States Government and the Department of Health can have a Patent 6630507 for "Cannabinoids as an Antioxident and Neuroprotectant" and that their own document states clearly that cannabinoids "are substantially non-toxic even at very high doses"
To which he laughed and said "We are Congress not Scientists".
Imagine now - if this were your child. Suffering from Day One and as a parent - being forced to be a "criminal" because Doctors, Hospitals and Politicians don't have the guts to stand up for what is right.
Hi! I'm Erin. I am a single mom, tireless advocate for UBE2a Deficiency Syndrome and a fierce proponent for medical cannabis.