The mother of a Cork toddler who had to temporarily move to the United States so her son could receive cannabis treatment for debilitating epileptic seizures is campaigning to make medical marijuana legal in Ireland.
In December year, Yvonne Cahalane and her two-year-old son, Tristan, relocated to Colorado to begin the much-needed treatment, which uses cannabis oil.
Tristan was born with Dravet syndrome, a severe and incurable form of epilepsy. He began having seizures when he was five months old and the condition escalated over time. At one point, he was experiencing twenty seizures a day. His condition combined with the side-effects from his prescribed medications resulted in numerous neurological and cognitive problems that affected his speech, movement, appetite and behavior, the Irish Examiner reports.
Since receiving the cannabis treatment in the U.S. Tristan’s condition has been remarkably improved. He has not had a seizure in three months, and he has not needed rescue medication or oxygen since beginning his cannabis oil.
He has also been weaned off three pharmaceutical drugs and is about to begin removing a fourth. Previous attempts to wean off the medications in Ireland before the cannabis treatment, always resulted in Tristan being hospitalized.
His treatment consists of a whole-plant medicine oil, with a full spectrum of therapeutic compounds, that is administrated orally.
“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,” said Cahalane, of her son’s improvement.
“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.”
She says his appetite and sleep have also improved and adds that he is becoming more communicative and independent.
Tristan is being treated at the Children's Hospital Colorado, which made the top five on the U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospital's 2015-16 Honor Roll.
Yvonne said: “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.”
So that Tristan could receive the treatment he needed, Yvonne had to leave behind her husband John and their other son Oscar.
She said: “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.”
And now, with a visa set to expire, Yvonne and Tristan will soon have to return to Ireland, where cannabis oil is illegal.
Yvonne is now strongly campaigning to change Irish legislation regarding medicinal marijuana. She has launched an online petition on Change.org, which now has over 6,000 signaures, and is in regular correspondence with various doctors, whole-plant medicine producers, and political members in both Irish and U.S. governments.
She is also trying to raise awareness through the media.
On The Neil Prendeville Show, she said: “I think the prospects are good. It’s illogical to not have it in Ireland.”
She also recently appeared on The Claire Byrne Live Show, where a national poll revealed that 79% of people support the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use.