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Vaccination Injury, Seizures and Cannabis Medicine: An Interview with Georgia Smithson

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Georgia Smithson is a 47-year-old woman living in San Diego with her husband and 15-year-old daughter Rachel. I interviewed Georgia via telephone last week to learn more about how cannabis medicine has impacted her family’s life. Because of the sensitive nature of her story, all names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy.

 

 

INTERVIEWER

 

Good morning, Georgia! I think I’d like to start our interview by having you tell us a little about your daughter and how, basically, you got here, talking to me.

 

GEORGIA

 

Sure. Rachel was a perfectly normal seven-month-old baby when she received her third round of standard vaccinations. Later that night, I was sleeping with the baby and all of a sudden she started shaking. I knew immediately that it was a result of the vaccination and ran to my bedroom where my husband was sleeping and shouted, “The baby is seizing! The baby is seizing!”

 

INTERVIEWER

 

Tell me why “you just knew.”

 

GEORGIA

 

I can’t tell you why. I just knew it was the DTAP vaccination.

 

 

INTERVIEWER

 

So within 24 hours, seven-month-old Rachel is having a long seizure. What happened after that?

 

 

GEORGIA

 

Well, we called 911. The seizure went on for thirteen minutes. I don’t remember much about that day, and what I do remember is so scary that I actually don’t even like to talk about it. I remember the dispatcher asking whether the baby was breathing, but the rest is a blur. The seizure stopped on its own, then, and we didn’t go into the hospital, but about three months later we had to call 911 again when she had another seizure.  That one stopped on its own, too.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

I take it the next seizure happened and things changed?

 

GEORGIA

 

Yes. When Rachel was eleven months old, she had her first status episode. I was giving her a bottle of milk, and she started staring off into space. The seizure lasted for over an hour, and despite being injected with Versed, a powerful narcotic, and a bunch of other stuff, they eventually had to intubate her, and she landed up in the PICU.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

Let’s clarify for those who aren’t familiar with the terms what “status” and “intubation” are, ok? When a person seizes for a period of time, and the seizure doesn’t stop on its own or with emergency medication, they are having an episode of status epilepticus. Some newer definitions of status say that it can be any generalized seizure lasting longer than five minutes or two or more episodes of generalized seizures without a return to baseline. They can be life-threatening, so extreme measures are often taken, and one of these is intubation. Intubation is when a tube is placed into the mouth and through the airway so that the patient can be placed on a ventilator. We’re talking serious stuff, here, that many don’t realize is a part of dealing with epilepsy.

 

GEORGIA

 

And I’d add that our story is not uncommon. I read about this all the time and know many families who’ve been through it.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

So, I take it that after that episode, Rachel was finally put on an antiepileptic drug?

 

GEORGIA

 

Yes. She was in the PICU for three days after that episode, and they had to slowly wake her up, take her off intubation and then lower the medications that they’d pumped into her. We got to take her home on Christmas Eve, but she was so drugged, it was a nightmare. Honestly, I think seeing your child go through that and then seeing her so out of it and drugged is one of the worst things that can happen to your child aside from getting kidnapped. After Christmas, we took her back to San Diego (we were visiting relatives), and they told us that she was on the wrong medication and took it off.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

So much is mysterious when it comes to epilepsy. I was told by my own daughter’s epileptologist that prescribing anti-seizure meds is as much of an art as a science. That always struck me as scary! I’m assuming they could find no reason for the seizures or did they discover a genetic or metabolic problem that caused them?

 

 

GEORGIA

 

No, the doctor told us that there was no reason that she should be having seizures. They found no cause despite all the tests. Over the next two years, we probably called 911 over thirty times for her status episodes. At the age of two years old, her speech was so good that people thought she sounded five years old. By the age of  three, she was so loaded on meds that her speech began to decline, and she could barely walk. She looked like a drunk person. Had I known then that marijuana could help her, I would have given it to her. The massive amounts of Valium and Diazepam that we were giving her just wrecked her.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

I remember you said earlier that her first seizure happened within 24 hours of receiving her vaccinations. Before we get into that, tell me how you first learned about marijuana as a treatment for seizures.

 

GEORGIA

 

Well, when I first saw the CNN special Weed, I tried to contact the Stanley brothers in Colorado, and they told me to contact Ray Mirzebegian in southern California. When I contacted Ray, he told me about the waiting list for Charlotte’s Web and that I could get another strain from northern California, which I did. I had no idea that they had an olive oil version, but I gave her the alcohol version, and she would sleep really well! She was thirteen years old, had been on more than ten drugs, was still seizing daily, and her development was very delayed. She could barely walk and couldn’t do a simple puzzle. She drooled excessively, was drugged and most of the time I stuck her in a stroller so that we could get out and take walks. That first oil really made her more alert and helped her to sleep through the night which was huge. The only trouble was that it was very expensive.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

Yes, I understand that. I can hardly afford the cannabis oil that I give to my own daughter! It’s ironic that we’ll go bankrupt for a medication that helps them, isn’t it? It’s so fantastic that the oil helped Rachel right away. So tell me about the vaccination thing – when did you begin exploring that as a cause for this nightmare, and what did you do about it?

 

GEORGIA

 

My husband was always on the internet trying to help our daughter. He found out about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund. No one told us about it. No doctor told us about it. There was one month left in the statute of limitations to seek redress, so we contacted a lawyer in Washington, D.C. to help us. We had no expenses out of pocket, and they took our case, but it was a long haul.

 

 

INTERVIEWER

 

Before you get into the details, let me explain to our readers what the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund is and why it was set up. Because this is such a controversial subject, I am going to quote directly from the United States Department of Health and Human Services website:

 

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is a no-fault alternative to the traditional legal system for resolving vaccine injury petitions.

 It was created in the 1980s, after lawsuits against vaccine companies and health care providers threatened to cause vaccine shortages and reduce U.S. vaccination rates, which could have caused a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

 Any individual, of any age, who received a covered vaccine and believes he or she was injured as a result, can file a petition. Parents, legal guardians and legal representatives can file on behalf of children, disabled adults and individuals who are deceased.

So, you went to court claiming that Rachel’s vaccinations, received at seven months, caused her seizures?

 

GEORGIA

 

Yes. Like I said, it was a long haul. Not only did it take a while to get a court date, but when we finally had the date, we actually lost. The government claimed that Rachel had a genetic disorder, but there was no evidence of that, so the lawyer appealed and said the judge had made the wrong decision. Rachel doesn’t have a genetic disorder, so the decision was overturned, and we won. The whole process took four years to get to court, and then it took two years for us to finally receive the money.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

How old was Rachel when you received the money?

 

GEORGIA

 

She was eight years old by then. We received a considerable sum, enough to care for her for the rest of her life. That includes the marijuana, now, too.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

That’s a compelling story. The tenor of the vaccination debate is usually so heightened with much vitriol thrown around. I don’t think people realize that despite which “side” you’re on, and whether you acknowledge it or not, there are real risks with vaccinations, however small. When it’s your child or someone you love, those statistics mean little. It’s important that people know the government and medical establishment have set up this fund, however labyrinthine, for those who, basically, take the fall.

 

GEORGIA

 

I wish that with all the money we have, I could spread it around and share it with other families who need cannabis. I’m not allowed to, though, because we obviously have to be accountable to it, and it all goes to Rachel. We go to the court every two years and account for it.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

So, Rachel is now fifteen years old, right? She’s been using cannabis for a couple of years and what are you seeing? How is she now?

 

GEORGIA

 

Rachel now takes Charlotte’s Web during the day and ACDC at night. Typically, she’d have 15 seizures a month, and we’re down to less than half that many. Her quality of life is so much better, too. We go to the zoo a lot, and she says hello to everyone. She can walk better, and it’s just wonderful. Her language is still delayed – I’d say it’s at about a four-year-old level — but she acts like a typical teenager! She’s very attracted to the opposite sex and likes fast cars. She’s learning to read right now at the Lindamood-Bell Center and is an amateur botanist. She can identify all sorts of palm trees and plants. Without the vaccine injury compensation, we would never have been able to afford the special reading programs. Also, when we started with Charlotte’s Web, there was no one to really talk to about dosing. It was hard to wean her off of the medications, particularly the benzodiazepines, and give her the Charlotte’s Web because we didn’t know what we were doing. We found that Indica and ACDC worked best for her, though, and slowly but surely, we withdrew all her meds. We got really, really lucky.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

I’d say “we got really lucky” is ironic, no? Is there anything you’d like to add?

 

GEORGIA

 

Ha! Definitely. I would like to add that the United States needs to acknowledge and embrace global worldwide research, particularly from Israel, of marijuana being prescribed by medical doctors for cancer and neurological conditions. Only this way can the stigma of this plant be erased and legalized everywhere. Finally, doctors need to be more truthful about vaccine safety, regardless of their personal opinions. We were never informed about the risks of vaccines or the help due us when they injured our daughter.

 

INTERVIEWER

 

Thank you so much, Georgia, for your honesty and open discussion. I wish you and your family much peace and many seizure free days!

 

 

 

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