Brave Tristan Forde, who turns three on St Stephen’s Day, was hailed a hero as he turned on the Christmas lights in Dunmanway in West Cork just hours after arriving home from Colorado with his mother, Yvonne.
Tristan, who has a rare form of epilepsy, was experiencing dozens of prolonged and severe seizures this time last year.
After a public appeal and fundraising, Yvonne and Tristan moved to Colorado last Christmas so he could avail of cannabis oil treatment to manage his seizures.
Tristan’s big brother, Oscar, 4, joined them in the US last April while dad, John, stayed in Dunmanway for work reasons.
A year on, Tristan is almost 99% seizure free, and Yvonne and the boys flew home on Saturday for an emotional reunion.
The family got the VIP treatment at the Christmas lights ceremony in Dunmanway last night, as Tristan flicked the big switch to light up the town.
Deirdre Kelly, of Dunmanway Chamber of Commerce, said the community was very aware of the sacrifices the family has made over the last year:
“We wanted to welcome them home, and pay tribute to them, and decided that this was the best way to do it.”
An emotional Yvonne said they worked so hard for Tristan. “It feels like a dream that this is finally happening and we’re home. We always knew that cannabis would be an effective treatment for Tristan — we never realised how incredible the results would be.
“We couldn’t have done this without the help and support of our community of Dunmanway which spread through Ireland and eventually globally.
Tristan was diagnosed in late 2014 with Dravet Syndrome — a rare and severe form of epilepsy. He was suffering up to 20 seizures a day, with some of the more severe seizures lasting up to an hour.
Yvonne described it as like a time bomb, and said night-time seizures were prolonged and violent.
But the medication to keep his seizures under control — CBD oil and THCA, both derived from the marijuana plant and which was only available in the US — has transformed his life.
The family wasn’t able to bring the medicinal oil back from the US but have sourced a European supply.
The Dáil last Thursday passed the medicinal cannabis bill proposed by AAA-PBP TDs Gino Kenny and Richard Boyd Barrett.