It's a remarkable transformation. Even a shocking one.
Especially considering the unlikely remedy.
Six-year-old Tyler used to be tormented by hundreds of painful seizures a day. Which would leave him absolutely exhausted at bedtime.
Even so, his doting mother would still have to pin him down to his mattress until he fell asleep. Otherwise, his small, frail body would continue to thrash about, robbing him of any rest and respite.
"Now he sleeps through the night, because he's having far fewer seizures," says single mother, Angele Vanier, 32. "It's amazing how much progress he's made over the past several months. He has a new lease on life."
Tyler is one of Canada's youngest medical marijuana patients. He suffers from cerebral palsy. And he has a seizure disorder called Lennox Gastaut syndrome. This debilitating paediatric form of epilepsy typically worsens as a child ages and can even become life-threatening.
Tyler's mother turned to cannabis in desperation, after seeing media stories about how it has helped other children in the U.S. with similarly debilitating conditions. She now administers him one gram of cannabis a day -- half in the morning and the rest in the evening -- in the form of a paste that she makes by cooking the cannabis with coconut oil.
And it's been a godsend, she says.
Until a few months ago, Tyler used to experience clusters of up to 80 seizures at a time, with each event lasting up to five minutes, or longer. Now his seizures are far fewer and of much shorter duration.
Living on social assistance, Vanier used to struggle each month to come up with the $400 a month she needed to legally buy cannabis from a federally-approved licensed producer in Ontario - one her doctor had originally referred her to.
"As a single mom, the cost became a big deal for me to manage," she says.
So she recently switched her legally-designated provider to another licensed producer, Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis. It offers "compassionate pricing" at $5 per gram for financially-challenged customers. Now Vanier only spends about $200 a month.
Even at the much lower cost, the province of Ontario still refuses to pay for her son's medicine because cannabis has not gone through the standard federal approval process for conventional prescription drugs.
However, it's been legally available to patients in need throughout Canada since 2001 following a landmark ruling from Canada's Supreme Court.
Vanier says her son's herbal medicine should therefore be financed by the Ontario health-care system. The government already pays for the range of anti-epileptic drugs that Tyler has relied on since infancy. But they're far more expensive and, in Tyler's case far less effective, Vanier adds.
Even though Tyler still requires prescription pharmaceuticals, Vanier has been able to steadily reduce his dosages now that the medical cannabis is working so well, she says.
This is a big breakthrough, Vanier declares. And in spite of the out-of-pocket costs, what she refers to as an "herbal medicine of last resort" is proving to be worth every penny, she says.
"In fact, Tyler's doing fantastic on his cannabis treatment," she adds. "The alternative is more 'meds' that come with side effects and can become ineffective over time because Tyler builds up a tolerance to some of them."
Since he started to be administered cannabis, Tyler has become far happier, more energetic and physically stronger, she says. Prior to that, his medications would make him weak, tired, irritable and depressed.
"Most importantly, his light is bright again. He's so much happier and aware of what's going on around him."
What's particularly beneficial to Tyler is that the specific strain of cannabis that she is buying -- which is called Temple -- is non-psychoactive, meaning that he doesn't get "stoned," she says.
The Temple strain contains virtually no THC, the mood-altering substance in marijuana, but features an extremely high concentration of another substance known as cannabidiol, or CBD.
"This high-CBD content in Temple allows Tyler to be far more alert than he used to be (than on a previous, different strain with a much higher THC content)," she says. "This way, he's far more relaxed. And it helps him sleep better, too."
The U.S. federal government is financing several dozen clinical trials into the efficacy of CBD as a treatment for a diversity of medical conditions. They include Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, opiate addiction, Crohn's disease, schizophrenia and cancer.
The cultivation of non-psychoactive, CBD-rich/low-THC strains is a big step towards many peoples' acceptance of cannabis as a legitimate form of medicine. This is according to Dr. Jonathan Page, an adjunct professor of botany at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
A world-renowned expert on the chemistry of marijuana, Page says CBD-rich oil is gaining greater acceptance among parents and doctors as an appropriate treatment for paediatric seizure disorders, including epilepsy.
Vanier is one of these parents. And she's grateful to have found a natural medicine with minimal side effects, that isn't becoming less effective over time.
"Offering Tyler a better quality of life is what anyone would want for their child," she explains.
Vanier has a fundraising campaign to offset the cost of paying for Tyler's herbal medicine. It can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/TLeducReLeaf
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Maggie has been suffering from seizures since she was six weeks old, and has hundreds of seizures on any given day. Her family relocated from Tennessee to Colorado late last year to use a combination of intensive therapy and cannabis oil to treat her symptoms.
Hunter suffers from intractable epilepsy and developmental delay. He's been on numerous medications that have failed to alleviate his seizures and he continues to decline "cognitively, physically and emotionally," according to his mother. He recently started cannabis treatments in the hopes that cannabidiol can provide relief.
Piper was born with a rare genetic disorder that causes her to suffer from seizures and has rendered her non-verbal, unable to crawl or walk and visually impaired. She has been on nine medications to try to treat her symptoms, and started taking cannabis oil last October. Since she began taking a low dose of cannabis, her family has begun to see small improvements.
Calvin has an extreme form of autism that has rendered him nonverbal. After 22 days of taking cannabis, he has begun using words to communicate. According to his mother, he used to have up to 20 head-beating episodes per day, and has only had one episode total in the three weeks he's been using cannabis. "I cried everyday for the first week of him using cannabis," his mother wrote on Montanez's blog. "We no longer had to pull over and restrain him on our way to therapy."
Sydni suffers from Doose syndrome, which causes her to have up to thousands of seizures each day. She functions at the academic level of a three-year-old and takes nine different medications. Her family recently started her on cannabis oil in the hopes that it will reduce her seizures.
Emily suffers from a debilitating form of epilepsy that has yet to be diagnosed. Her family recently moved from Indiana to Colorado in the hopes that a cannabis prescription will help ease her seizures.
Jordan was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome when she was six months old and has suffered from seizures for her entire life. On her worst days, she's unable to eat, drink or function. Her family recently relocated from Cleveland to Colorado to try cannabis treatments.
Tyler has a rare, drug-resistant form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. He has spent months living in the hospital and has been placed in two medically induced comas. He began taking a low dose of cannabis in October and his family has begun to see "small victories."
Kennedee was born with Walker-Warburg Syndrome, a severe and rare form of muscular dystrophy that claimed her older sister's life when she was just two months old. When Kennedee was born, she was only given a few months to live. Since starting her cannabis treatment, "we have seen a personality we didn't know she had," her mother wrote on Montanez's blog.
Charlie suffers from Dravet Syndrome and has seizures in the middle of the night, every night. His family hopes his use of cannabis oil will make him able to communicate and reduce his dependence on other drugs.
Cora was born with a rare multiple-malformation syndrome that causes her to have body and head overgrowth and various abnormalities of her brain, limbs and vascular system. She also suffers from dozens of seizures a day, has undergone multiple surgeries and uses a head switch to communicate. Her parents are beginning to explore cannabis treatments as a means for relief.
KC has suffered from multiple daily seizures since he was three years old and has yet to respond to any treatments. After two weeks using cannabis, he began exhibiting progress. "A boy who would previously wobble and stumble as he walked was now running up hiking trails and jumping into his dad's arms," his mother wrote on Montanez's blog. "He has even been cracking jokes!"
Charlotte used to suffer from more than 40 seizures per day, and now, according to her mother, "her wheelchair and seizure helmet are in storage collecting dust." Charlotte was the first child in Colorado to be treated with cannabis oil, and her story inspired the name "Charlotte's Web," which is the high-cannabidiol, low-THC strain used to treat other children with similar conditions.
Since he was just a few months old, Zaki suffered from up to thousands of seizures per day. He has been seizure-free since he started taking cannabis oil more than a year ago.
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