Jennifer was diagnosed with juvenile absence epilepsy in 2008. Her sister noticed them first, and it was confirmed by examination by her neurologist and an EEG. Her seizures occurred mostly in the morning and at night, with an increase of frequency when she was tired. Since the seizures did not seem to cause her problems with school, sports, or social activities, we decided not to place her on medication.
In November-December of 2010, we noticed her absence seizures were becoming more frequent, and she expressed that they were bothering her in school, causing her to miss information. Therefore, we made an appointment with the neurologist to discuss medication. Prior to her appointment, she had her first tonic-clonic seizure on December 31st. She began Depakote. During her time on Depakote, her absence seizures lessened and she had no tonic-clonic episodes. However, by early May 2011 she was having severe mood swings and suicidal thoughts (as well as weight gain and hair loss), so we stopped the medication. This began a year-long search for the right pharmaceutical mix to control her seizures. However, nothing worked and Jen had bad side-effects to nearly every medication she tried. We also tried a modified Atkins diet for her, with little success. Her tonic-clonic episodes increased, and Jen went into status on a regular basis and had to be given rescue meds. By the summer of 2012, Jen was in status 24 hours/day unless she was on Ativan. Not only is that not a viable long term solution, Ativan made her feel like she was going to burst. Reluctantly, we put her back on Depakote and added Banzel. Depakote, while controlling her tonic-clonic episodes, causes her to have violent behaviors, depression, decreased cognitive functioning, hair loss, and ovarian issues. But, despite seeing some of the best neurologists in the country, we were told it was the best they could do. On her daily regimen of 14 pills, Jennifer still suffered from over 300 seizures daily.
So, On December 2nd, 2013 Jennifer and I moved from Fairfax, Virginia to Colorado. Like over 100 others, we left our home, her 16 year old sister, her father, our family, doctors, and friends, to give Jennifer the opportunity to find relief from her seizures and the harmful side-effects of her current medications through medical marijuana. While we are hopeful of finding some relief for her through medical marijuana, if it works for her, she will be unable to leave the state. To say the least, this has been a difficult and painful decision. And, quite frankly, one we shouldn’t have had to make. Jennifer misses her father and sister. She misses her friends and teachers. Jennifer’s medication is from the cannabis plant, but it contains no active THC, so it has no psychoactive effect. Although she has not been on in long, we have seen a 50-70% decrease in seizures. Since starting THCa Jen says, “I feel 90% sharper in school. I can concentrate better. I can remember stuff better.”
It is our hope to help change the laws that keep this medication from others who so desperately need it, and to one day return home to Virginia.