Julia Arnold is a seven-year-old in Colorado who has suffered from Infantile Spasms since she was seven months old. According to an abstract from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Infantile spasms is one of the ‘catastrophic childhood epilepsies’ because of the difficulty in controlling seizures and the association with mental retardation.”
To date, Julia has tried 13 different pharmaceutical drugs in an effort to stop her seizures and allow her to learn and develop like a normal child.
The Big Decision
Julia’s parents have made the decision to treat her with medical marijuana. While many people justify this direction with the simple fact that no other treatment has been effective (the “last ditch effort” rationalization), Julia’s parents report that they have experienced a decrease in their daughter’s seizures with conventional drugs, but that they aren’t sure the negative side effects — most notably, Julia’s discomfort and severe developmental delays — are acceptable. Motivated partly by CNN’s Weed series hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and examples of other children who have gained significant relief from cannabis or cannabis oil, Julia’s parents decided this might be a treatment that not only prevents her seizures, but that also delivers fewer life-altering side effects.
Said Laurie Arnold when describing the detrimental effects of her daughter’s pharmaceutical treatments:
“Yes, in many cases they’ve done their jobs, they’ve controlled her seizures — and for that we are blessed. But at a cost. They’ve delayed her development, they make her clumsy and agitated.”
While Ms. Arnold admits that she is worried about any possible negative side effects of medical cannabis, she said she is more worried about her daughter dying during a seizure. To those who say there needs to be more research into cannabis efficacy, Ms. Arnold responds, “Have you asked about the research on a 13-month-old taking the cocktail of keppra, topomax, and sabril? How about keppra, zonegran, and banzel? Keppra, valium, [and] prednisone?”
Ms. Arnold reported that she has received “99.9 percent positive responses” from those with whom she’s shared her plans. Her justification for treating her daughter with marijuana, to both friends and family — as well as herself — has been the following three points.
1. Seizures are scary.
2. Pharmaceuticals are scary.
3. Pot isn’t any scarier than seizures or pharmaceuticals.
On Monday, May 4, Julia Arnold will begin a grand experiment, the treatment of her particular form of epilepsy, Infantile Spasms, with cannabis. If cannabis is able to both suppress her seizures while also delivering fewer negative side effects, this young girl’s quality of life will have increased by leaps and bounds. Her development will improve and she’ll be happier and in less pain. In other words, Julia and her parents will be able to get on with their lives. Laurie Arnold will be able to stop continually worrying if her daughter will die during a seizure.
Why? Simply because Julia’s parents took the bold step of treating a young child with a plant. Unfortunately, it’s an embattled plant that’s been plagued by stigma and controversy for the past 100 years in the United States. How many children with epilepsy or cancer needlessly suffer simply because their parents are ignorant of the potential benefits of cannabis, or because they live in a conservative state that hasn’t legalized it for medical use?
Photo credit: Yahoo