Weed Helps with Seizures

When the Figi’s had nowhere left to turn, medical marijuana saved their little girl.

Matt and Paige Figi gave birth to their twins, Charlotte and Chase, in Colorado in October 2006. Everything about them was normal and healthy. But that changed three months later.

Charlotte, just out of the bath, was lying on the floor when her eyes started flickering in her head. She suffered a seizure that lasted half an hour. She was rushed to the hospital. Doctors ran expensive tests but found no answers.

When the seizures returned, worse than before, the doctors thought it might be a case of Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of treatment-resistant epilepsy. They put Charlotte on a hardcore regiment of medications, including barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

But the seizures kept getting worse, and the drugs did their own damage. When Charlotte was 2, doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora confirmed the diagnosis: Dravet Syndrome.

By now Charlotte was declining sharply, losing cognitive abilities, her seizures taking hold of her life. Experts prescribed experimental drugs and special diets. The dietary changes worked for a couple years, but left her with severe side effects. Eventually the seizures returned.

By the time Charlotte was 6, she was disappearing. She was no longer able to eat, walk or talk, and she was suffering 300 grand mal seizures each week. She had a do-not-resuscitate order and had been near death countless times.

Scouring the Internet in desperation, Matt Figi came across a video of a boy whose Dravet seizures were being controlled with a marijuana strain high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD has been implicated in many of marijuana’s medicinal properties, while THC is the chemical that gets users high.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000. Pot is used there to treat glaucoma, cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, severe nausea, severe chronic pain, and severe weight loss and muscle atrophy.

So Paige and Matt Figi decided to give it a try in a last-ditch effort to save their daughter. They ran into fierce resistance from the medical community: If doctors agreed to give Charlotte a medical recommendation, she would become the youngest cannabis patient in the state.

But eventually they found the requisite two physicians to sign off on Charlotte’s prescription. Then Paige went about trying to locate it.

The key was finding the right strain. Most growers produce strains high in THC, since most smokers want to get high. But based on what they had learned about Dravet and marijuana, the Figis knew they needed high amounts of CBD, not THC. And they didn’t want to get their daughter stoned.

Eventually they found a group of six brothers, among the largest pot growers in the state, who produce a high-CBD, low-THC strain targeted at medical needs. Not only do they grow the strain, they all but give it away to patients like Charlotte in return for small donations. In fact, they named the strain after her: Charlotte’s Web.

It’s a good choice, because the marijuana worked. Almost immediately after taking a dose in food form, Charlotte’s seizures stopped. And they stayed that way. She now has them only two or three times a month, and continues to get two doses of cannabis oil every day.

Paige used to oppose medical marijuana and voted against everything pot-related. Now, both Charlotte’s parents are singing the praises of medical weed.

“I want to scream it from the rooftops,” said father Matt. “I want other people, other parents, to know that this is a viable option.”

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