For the month of March (also known as Irish American Heritage Month) IrishCentral is tapping into the heartbeat of the Irish American community. The Unsung Heroes series features inspiring individuals from across the US who do extraordinary work in their communities and respective fields. From advocates to artists, from local legends to dedicated educators, from a high school baseball team to dynamo nuns in their 80s, these people are making a difference and to them we tip our hats in thanks.
Today’s Unsung Hero is Rebecca Reed-Kelleher, who lives in Southampton, NY with her husband Denis and son Liam. Becky is campaigning tirelessly to legalize medicinal marijuana in New York and to get the state to pass the Compassionate Care Act.
Becky’s son Liam has an extremely rare illness called Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy with potentially fatal consequences for its victims. This incurable condition impedes a child’s growth and development with distressing regular violent seizures.
Liam requires a lot of medical monitoring and expensive treatment. His seizures can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. Some of the longer seizures require hospitalization.
Becky is campaigning vigorously to legalize medicinal marijuana to improve Liam’s quality of life. Current treatments open to the Kellehers are expensive, costing thousands of dollars each year and have negative side-effects for Liam. And they don’t work.
Medicinal marijuana in the form of a pill has worked for other Dravet Syndrome sufferers. Becky is working to try to secure this as a treatment option for her son. Medicinal marijuana would have fewer side-effects than the current prescribed and recommended treatments.
As she said in an interview with 27East.com, "“I love when people react to medical marijuana by saying, ‘you’re experimenting with your child.’ Oh please. Every single thing we’ve given Liam has been an experiment, a trial and error, a math equation of a little more of this, little less of that. It has been one long experiment in barbiturates and psychoactive schizophrenia drugs for his seizures. People want to call marijuana a gateway drug, but people in our support groups, we call it an exit drug, because it’ll help us get off everything else.”
Becky is not advocating legalizing casual marijuana usage. She and her family are campaigning to improve the quality of life for their son by gaining access to new treatment that has been shown to be successful in other patients who suffer from the same illness their son does.