Late last year, the Irish Examiner website published a story about Yvonne Cahalane and her two year old son Tristan, who was born with Dravet syndrome, a severe, incurable form of epilepsy.
Tristan’s first seizure occurred when he was five months old and had escalated over time until he was experiencing epileptic seizures up to twenty times a day.
The combination of his condition and the side-effects from his prescribed pharmaceutical medications resulted in numerous neurological and cognitive problems that affected his speech, movement, appetite and behavior.
In December 2015, Yvonne and Tristan moved to Colorado to begin cannabis treatment with the hope of easing his debilitating symptoms.
Since relocating to the US, the positive changes in Tristan’s condition and well-being have convinced Yvonne that her desperate decision to leave their home in Ireland was the right one.
Tristan has not had a seizure in three months.
He has not needed rescue medication or oxygen since beginning his cannabis oil. Within days of his first treatment there was a noticeable improvement.
He has been weaned off three pharmaceutical drugs and is about to begin removing a fourth.
Any previous attempts to wean off medications in Ireland had always resulted in Tristan being hospitalized, but now every aspect of his medical assessments show huge advancements in his progress.
Administrated orally, Tristan’s whole-plant medicine oil utilizes the full spectrum of therapeutic compounds that cannabis has to offer.
Yvonne describes some of the differences in her son.
“Tristan was suddenly able to make eye contact and became more alert. He began to babble, repeat sounds and say new words. All of which had vanished since his spate of violent seizures last May when he stopped talking altogether.”
“During the second week he began to get steadier on his feet, he wasn’t falling after a few steps, he was bending with stability. He would sit down without help and he began to kick a ball.”
“His seizure activity lessened with every few days and once he had been increased to his optimum dose with the introduction of tiny amounts of THC, he was 99% seizure free and has been ever since.”
Tristan’s personality is beginning to shine through now that the fog of seizures and medications is lifting and Yvonne is enjoying a new side to her son.
Happy, roguish and affectionate, he is quickly becoming more communicative and independent.
His appetite and sleep have improved significantly and for the first time he can take part in normal everyday activities like walks in the fresh air without the danger of multiple drop seizures.
Tristan attends the Children's Hospital Colorado, which recently made the top five on the U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospital's 2015-16 Honor Roll. It has ranked nationally every year since the inception of their pediatric hospital rankings edition in 1993.
Yvonne says, “The hospital and doctors we have caring for Tristan are wonderful, they hold cannabis in high regard as a medicine. Colorado in general is a very open-minded and beautiful state. There are educational events all the time to spread awareness of people’s options in using cannabis as their medicine.”
But cannabis oil is illegal in Ireland and will not be available to Tristan when he returns home.
With a visa set to expire, returning home is inevitable. Yvonne has left her husband John, and their other son Oscar behind as she concentrates on Tristan’s recuperation. While the progress Tristan is making is giving their family the strength to carry on, it is not always easy in Colorado.
“I’ve missed so much of Oscar, I miss taking him to school and hearing about his day. While Daddy is missing Tristan’s development and progression, which he can only see through Skype.”
“It has definitely been heartbreaking to say goodbye to them both for this time.”
Yvonne is confident her campaign to change Irish legislation in relation to medicinal marijuana will be successful.
During her appearance on The Claire Byrne Live Show, a national poll revealed that 79% of people support the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use.
Yvonne has launched an online petition on change.org that has acquired almost 3000 signatures, and is asking everybody who agrees with the cause to sign it.
She is in regular correspondence with political members of both the Irish and American government, as well as various doctors and whole-plant medicine producers. She is also raising awareness of the benefits of the oil through national and international media.
Speaking on The Neil Prendeville Show in February she said.
“I think the prospects are good. It’s illogical to not have it in Ireland.”
In Colorado, cannabis is also used to treat many other conditions and diseases including cancer, cachexia, chronic pain, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS.
As well as easing people’s suffering, marijuana dispensaries have also served to significantly boost the state’s economy.
In 2014 Colorado retailors sold $386 million of medicinal marijuana generating over $30 million in tax revenue alone.