MN: Seizure Patient Sees Improvements In Condition After Using Medical Cannabis Oil


Bemidji, Minn. – On the morning of Aug. 18, Leah Corcoran was cautiously optimistic.

“We’re on a five-day stretch right now,” Corcoran said, knocking on a nearby wooden dresser. “Very excited, I know, it’s incredible.”

That day was the fifth day in a row that Corcoran’s 25-year-old daughter, Sarah Taylor, had not been woken by a violent seizure, something that, up until two months ago, was the norm.

The decrease in the frequency of Taylor’s tonic-clonic seizures – previously called grand mal – corresponds with the use of medical cannabis oil to treat the seizure disorder she’s lived with since infancy.

Taylor was born a “typical infant,” Corcoran said, but at three months old she began having seizures. Taylor has been officially diagnosed with idiopathic intractable seizures – meaning treatment-resistant seizures of unknown origin.

“Her life has been defined by seizures,” Corcoran said. “She’s severely disabled now, and she’s nonverbal. She used to talk, she used to be much more mobile than she is now, but she lives at home with us because she’s completely dependent on others for her care.”

Most of the time Taylor uses a wheelchair, though she will occasionally get up and walk around. Sometimes she will eat and drink without help, though Corcoran or a personal care assistant will often feed her by hand and administer liquids through a gastronomy tube, which is inserted through the abdomen and delivers nutrition directly to the stomach.

Corcoran has always been sure that if Taylor’s seizures could be decreased, her quality of life would improve. The family has tried every kind of treatment, from conventional anticonvulsants to acupuncture. But, until Taylor began using the cannabis oil, nothing worked.

“It’s devastated her life. Having seizures has completely changed the trajectory of her life,” Corcoran said. “That’s been very sad for us as a family to come to terms with the reality of having a devastating disability.”

Dr. William Dicks, a pain management specialist with Sanford Bemidji, said no one is sure how cannabis works to prevent seizures – or whether it really does – because of a lack of research due to the drug’s illegal status.

Dicks has never treated Taylor, but spoke about one theory that could explain why some believe the drug prevents seizures.

The brain continues three supporting structures, Dicks said, including microglia, which are more common than neurons. Microglia can become activated, turning into macrophages, which “clean up” debris in the brain by doing things like destroying bacteria and viruses.

“What possibly happens then is that these cannabinoids – now we’re in conjecture – stabilize these microglia so they stop becoming activated,” Dicks said.

This theory has not been proven, however.

“It’s not been studied formally for seizures,” Dicks said. “Not one study.”

Corcoran campaigned to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota, confident it would help her daughter. She signed up for email alerts and wrote to legislators along with friends and family. She thought once medical cannabis was legalized, the rest would be easy.

“We worked really hard to get that, and we were delighted when it passed,” Corcoran said. “I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to get her enrolled in the program … you have to find a physician willing to enroll you. That in itself was very difficult.”

Since medical marijuana was legalized in the state last year, 2,492 patients have successfully enrolled in the program and 256 caregivers have received background checks and are approved in the registry.

Corcoran eventually found a doctor, whose name she prefers not to make public, and Taylor was enrolled in the program. After a “tremendous” amount of paperwork and certifications – a year of work and waiting – Taylor began taking medical cannabis oil.

“It was frustrating,” Corcoran said. “A little disheartening. I had hoped that it would have been easier than it was … I persevered because it was something we had been waiting for for years.”

The form of medical cannabis Taylor uses does not create the high associated with marijuana. The plant has two compounds: THC, which creates a high, and CBD, which is effective for things like nausea, seizures and glaucoma. Taylor’s oil has 20 parts CBT for every one part THC.

The results were nearly instant, according to Corcoran. After her first dose of the oil – given to her through her gastronomy tube – Taylor went three days without seizures.

“When we started this, right away the first thing we noticed was that she was not having a seizure in the morning,” Corcoran said. “How nice is that, to not have to wake up to a seizure for her?”

During the past two months, Taylor’s dose of cannabis oil has been gradually increased from two milliliters twice a day to five twice a day. She still takes her conventional anticonvulsants, but Corcoran says her daughter is showing dramatic signs of improvement.

“Anybody that knows Sarah, and has worked with her, they all say the same thing. They just can’t believe the change,” Corcoran said. “It’s like she’s waking up, like she’s coming alive and coming into herself and becoming the person that she really is inside.”

But Corcoran is not sure she and her family can sustain the treatment. State law allows a patient or caregiver enrolled in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program to purchase no more than a 30-day supply of the medication. Because insurance companies do not cover medical marijuana, all costs are out-of-pocket.

For Taylor, a 30-day supply of the oil at her current dosage costs $450. This has strained the family’s finances, though Corcoran and her partner both work. They have two younger children, and Corcoran worries she won’t be able to afford the oil for much longer.

“My savings is gone now, boom, one-and-a-half months, my savings is gone,” Corcoran said. “So while it’s been a great program in that it’s helped a number of people, it’s really a drug for a wealthy population.”

Corcoran has started a bank account at Security Bank USA solely for Taylor’s medical cannabis expenses, and hopes to receive help from family, friends and community members. Anyone interested in donating can make out a check to the Cobalt Care Fund, Corcoran said.

Though Taylor still has seizures and remains nonverbal, Corcoran remains hopeful.

“I was expecting it to be the silver bullet,” Corcoran said. “It’s not, but it’s as close to a silver bullet as I could ever have expected.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Seizure Patient Sees Improvements In Condition After Using Medical Cannabis Oil
Author: Grace Pastoor
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Website: West Fargo Pioneer