At six weeks old, Maggie Selmeski began having multiple seizures. Her parents rushed her to the hospital for tests, and they were told she has intractable epilepsy. This term is given to epileptic patients who do not respond to conventional treatments. Even under a doctor’s supervision and a prescription drug regimen, Maggie was having approximately 500 seizures daily.
Her parents, Shawn and Rachael Selmeski, were heartbroken by the prognosis.
“The doctors were saying, ‘there’s nothing else we can do for her. You need to go home and love her and she’s not going to live very long,” said Shawn.
Left with few options, Rachel began researching alternatives. She discovered that other parents were using cannabis to treat their child’s acute epilepsy.
Rachel was reading about Charlotte’s Web, a high-CBD strain with very low THC, usually concentrated into an orally-administered oil. It has had success treating forms of epilepsy in children that weren’t responding to traditional pharmaceuticals. The strain was named after Charlotte Figi who had hundreds of seizures a day just like Maggie. Charlotte’s parents sought out the Stanley brothers for help finding the right strain that would help with her seizures. It took years of trial and error to hone in on the right combination of cannabinoids and dosing. Once they did, Charlotte’s seizures decreased from over 300 per week to a couple per month.
After reading the research and discussing their options, the Selmeskis made the difficult decision to move to Colorado. They are originally from Tennessee, one of the remaining states that has not passed any sort of medical marijuana legislation, despite efforts to do so.
The term for people who leave their homes, their careers, and their lives to relocate to states with medical cannabis laws have been called “medical refugees.” They are forced to move to pursue a medical marijuana treatment when traditional health care and treatment options fail or are unattainable. Sometimes, these refugees come from states that do have medical marijuana legislation, but the laws are a patchwork quilt that allow for legal cannabis, but not allow for its cultivation or distribution. Even then, the price of medical marijuana can be so high that moving elsewhere is a better financial choice.
Colorado is popular among medical refugees, where medical marijuana is plentiful, easy to purchase, relatively affordable, and legal.
Before, Maggie was conscious, but she had trouble eating, and at times would scream because she was in so much pain. After moving to Colorado and taking Charlotte’s Web for three months, Maggie seizures decreased by about a third. She is now able to communicate with yes and no questions. She attends preschool, something that Shawn thought was impossible due to her epilepsy. Maggie can express herself and is making friends at school.
“She’s just awakened. She has her own little personality to her. She has her ways of communicating, and we’re continuing to unlock those ways of her expressing herself.” said Rachel. “When she starts giggling, she lights up the whole house.”
The Selmeskis admit there is a “major stigma” associated with giving a child what many still consider a gateway drug. But Rachel now sees medical marijuana as medicine. “For us, it was a no-brainer.”
Photo credit: Miracle 4 Maggie