Medical marijuana changed everything for Charlotte Figi. CNN reports that after the six-year-old was started on daily doses of cannabis oil, her debilitating seizures subsided and her cognitive functions improved dramatically.
Thanks to a federally controlled substance, she is now living a normal life.
"I literally see Charlotte's brain making connections that haven't been made in years," her father, Matt, said in a recent interview. "My thought now is, why were we the ones that had to go out and find this cure? This natural cure? How come a doctor didn't know about this? How come they didn't make me aware of this?"
Figi, who suffers from a rare, severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, was having about 300 grand mal seizures a day when her mother, Paige, decided to explore new treatment options. So far, nothing had helped, and the young girl's cognitive skills were diminishing with each day.
Medical Marijuana: The Last Option?
In order to try the unorthodox approach, the family needed recommendations from two physicians — a task that initially appeared impossible.
"Everyone said no, no, no, no, no, and I kept calling and calling," she said, noting that many doctors had serious qualms about issuing a medical marijuana license to such a young patient, her condition notwithstanding.
Margeret Gedde, a Colorado-based physician, finally agreed to look into the case.
"(Charlotte's) been close to death so many times, she's had so much brain damage from seizure activity and likely the pharmaceutical medication," she explained. "When you put the potential risks of the cannabis in context like that, it's a very easy decision."
Alan Shackelford, the second doctor to sign off on the new treatment, shared Gedde's initial reservations, but ultimately decided it was at least worth a shot.
"They had exhausted all of her treatment options," he said. "There really weren't any steps they could take beyond what they had done. Everything had been tried -- except cannabis."
Figi was given cannabis oil extracted from a marijuana strain low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high in cannabidiol (CBD). According to the family, the treatment took effect almost immediately, and the results were nothing short of astounding.
"When she didn't have those three, four seizures that first hour, that was the first sign," Paige recalled. "And I thought well, 'Let's go another hour, this has got to be a fluke.'"
But it wasn't. Soon, the symptoms subsided almost completely.
Medical Marijuana With Low THC Levels — A New Treatment Option?
Now, Figi's seizures occur just once a day, usually in her sleep. She is able to eat, walk, and even ride her bicycle without help. More importantly, she is catching up to the cognitive level of her peers, and is talking more and more each day.
"The biggest misconception about treating a child like little Charlotte is most people think that we're getting her high, most people think she's getting stoned," said Josh Stanley, the medical marijuana grower and dispensary owner supplying Figi with her twice-daily dose of cannabis oil. "Charlotte is the most precious little girl in the world to me. I will do anything for her."
Today, 41 patients suffering from epilepsy and cancer treat their pain with cannabis oil extracted from "Charlotte's Web" — a low-THC marijuana strain, named after its first young patient.