Sometimes the biggest heroes of our times are the children because their innocence can remind us of the many things we take for granted every day and we forget to appreciate their true value. Many stories around the world can change the way we look at our lives. Some children proved that their tiny bodies have so much more strength than an adult can ever imagine and all they want is the chance to be just like the rest of us. Charlotte is one of the children born with epileptic seizures, but who managed to change the way an entire industry works. This story is about a child’s will to live a healthy life against all the odds. Her story teaches us to love our tedious or stressful life and appreciate every moment. Here is how the fight of a little girl gives hope to a new life for many other children just like her.
Who is Charlotte?
Charlotte Figi seemed to be one happy, healthy baby girl when si was born, on October 2006, but destiny had something else in store for her. After only three months since coming into the world, she started having seizures, and they only got worse over the following months
It got to the point she was enduring 30 minutes to 4 hours long episodes of intense spasm. Within two years her cognitive capacity was visibly declining. By the time she turned three years old the consequences were so severe that she had lost her abilities to eat, walk or talk. During this time her tiny heart stopped several times due to the high intensity of the seizures, and at one point doctors decided it is time to put her into an induced coma so her body will have a chance to rest for a while. All these, eventually, led the specialists to the conclusion she was suffering from Dravet Syndrome, one of the most severe forms of epilepsy..
Charlotte was six when her story reached media’s attention, and by that time things turned so bad that she was experiencing more than 300 severe attacks each week. Her parents refused to accept the situation and started searching online for similar stories and possible alternative treatments. So, the father came across the story of a little boy, also diagnosed with epilepsy and extreme seizures, but he was being treated with medical marijuana. Considering that up to this point they have tried every doctor and every medical treatment they have heard off with no results at all, the Figi family decided to learn more about the marijuana’s therapeutic potential as an alternative treatment for their daughter.
The struggle lasted for many years
When seizures first started to appear the parents rushed Charlotte to the hospital, where doctor’s performed many different tests which all came back normal, so eventually they sent the child back home. It wasn’t long until these episodes became a common occurrence, yet the doctors remained oblivious to the cause. After many months of guessing and suppositions, one of the doctors came with the Dravet Syndrome diagnosis, also known as myoclonic epilepsy of infancy (SMEI). This is a very rare form of epilepsy, and it can’t be cured or controlled with drugs. This is a health condition which usually appears during the baby’s first year of life and grows in intensity during the second year.
The doctors were still puzzled because Charlotte seemed to be otherwise healthy and develop both cognitive and physically within normal parameters. As the seizures became stronger, the prescription drugs recommended by the doctors were becoming less effective so her cognitive abilities started to degrade rapidly. After two and a half years of trying various treatments, the parents decided to take Charlotte to the Children’s Hospital in Colorado where she was tested for a specific genetic mutation, known as SCN1A. This gene is a common result for 80% of children diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, and it came out positive for Charlotte as well. The parents were devastated by the news, but on the other hand, they now had a diagnosis established beyond doubt so they can start focusing on finding a way to help their daughter overcome this problem.
Searching for a cure
Having now a starting point, the Figi’s focused on finding out what possible treatments are available for their little girl. They became so desperate that at one point they even started to consider trying out an experimental drug from France, used for treating seizures in dogs. On the doctor’s recommendation, they have also tried a special diet, rich in fats and scarce in carbs, known as ketogenic diet and it seemed to work for a while, but it also came with some unwanted side effects such as bone loss, low immune system, and even behavioral problems. After two years with the diet, the seizures started appearing again, making the family feel hopeless once more.
Matt Figi started the research again and came across a video of a boy from California who suffered from the same diagnosis as his girl, and he was successfully being treated with cannabis. The strain used for this specific treatment was high in CBD and low in THC. These two substances are the main active ingredients of marijuana, but only THC is responsible for causing the psychoactive effects. Meanwhile, CBD seems to have many medicinal properties. On further search, the parents learned that CBD was scientifically proven to able to reduce that special electrical and chemical activity of the brain((http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043661816301797)) which causes seizures without generating any side effects. This was the moment they changed their opinion about the legalization of cannabis and felt hopeful again.
Nothing else left to try
Meanwhile, things got so bad for little Charlotte that doctors admitted being defeated as they were running out of options to help her. The girl was experiencing more than 300 seizures each week, and her brain was so much affected by these attacks that it shut down the child’s ability to walk, eat or talk. Her heart even stopped beating several times as a result of these severe episodes. As a final solution doctors induced a state of coma to Charlotte so her body will take a break from seizures. With nothing else left to try in order to help Charlotte feel better and have a chance to a normal life, Page and Matt Figi decided it is time to turn to marijuana, more specific to CBD.
This is how another difficult journey started
First, they needed two doctors to agree on Charlotte entering this medical program and considering that the effects of marijuana on children still needs further research, getting those doctors on board was another fight with the system. Also, there was no record of any other child ever using medical marijuana, which made Charlotte one of the youngest patients of this program. Also, the early studies regarding the effects of marijuana on young people suggest as possible side effects a lower IQ level, slow brain development, higher risk of stroke or psychotic disorder episodes. It was not a surprise that most doctors were reluctant in supporting the idea of Charlotte being treated with marijuana. But most of those studies were conducted on teens, not pre-teens and also Charlotte will not be smoking the marijuana, so those risks seemed less possible to occur. The first doctor who agreed to help this girl enter the medical marijuana program was Dr. Margaret Gedde. She learned about everything that Charlotte has gone through and understood that this is her last chance. Also, Dr. Alan Shackelford reviewed her case, and even if he was reluctant at first, he accepted the idea that all other options have been exhausted.
The contribution of Stanley Brothers and the creation of Charlotte’s Web
With the doctor’s support, the Figi family reached out to the Stanley Brothers, who represents one of the largest medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado. At the time they met Charlotte’s parents they were working on a special crossbreed of marijuana which contains high levels of CBD and almost no trace of THC. The brothers were so impressed with the little girl’s story that they decided to formulate a special strain of marijuana which they named Charlotte’s Web. They also created the Realm of Caring Foundation, a nonprofit organization which aims to provide medical marijuana to both children and adults who suffer from various diseases. Through this foundation, 41 more patients received Charlotte’s Web to ease the pain and treat symptoms of epilepsy and cancer.
Not knowing what to expect, but with the heart full of, both Matt and Paige started administrating their daughter small amounts of CBD oil. The results mesmerized everyone as the cannabis oil managed to reduce so much Charlotte’s seizures that they stopped for an entire week. Even her brain started to make connections again after so many years. Nowadays, her seizures happen at most three times each month and mostly during her sleep. Her dream came true. Now she is a happy and active girl. She can walk and even ride a bike. She can feed herself, and this makes her parents so happy they want to scream from the rooftops that CBD is a life-changing option for various medical conditions which can not be improved with classic medication.
So what is Charlotte’s Web and why is it so effective?
This is a unique strain of cannabis obtained after crossbreeding various strains, rich in CBD (cannabidiol) and contains very low amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Due to its composition, this plant is accepted by the federal law of the USA as a dietary supplement. It is produced in the Colorado State by the Stanley Brothers in honor of Charlotte, who is now known as “the girl who is changing medical marijuana laws across America.” Because there is almost no THC, this plant is not able to induce any psychoactive effects as one expects to form a marijuana plant. Starting September 2017, the manufacturer promised to make sure that their products will contain less than 0.3% of THC. There is a lot of misconception regarding the effects of CBD oil. Many people imagine that Charlotte is feeling high when the results are exactly the opposite. Now her brain works better than ever due to the CBD’s influence.
Why is CBD Important?
CBD or cannabidiol is a substance, part of the cannabinoids family, along with THC and it is extracted from medical marijuana or hemp. For many years this plant was considered a way of rebelling yourself for various reasons. Several decades ago, scientists found out that most living creatures, especially humans, are genetically equipped to produce and process cannabinoids through the endocannabinoid system. This is why marijuana became the subject of multiple medical studies regarding its therapeutic properties.
Results strongly indicate the plant’s potential to improve medical conditions like chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, cancer and various cognitive and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer Disease, autism, seizures, epilepsy, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, psychosis and many other.
Research is still in the early days, and that’s exactly why The Food and Drug Association hasn’t approved CBD as an official dietary supplement and requests more large-scale studies before making any final decision((https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1525505016305856)). While typical marijuana plants contain high amounts of THC and CBD, Charlotte’s Web is a special strain with high amounts of CBD and low of THC, which is the active ingredient responsible for creating that special high feeling people get when smoking cannabis. Cannabidiol is still subject to controversy, but more and more doctors and scientists learn about its potential to bring benefits for the health, such as:
- Boosting and supporting mental functions at optimum levels
- Improving mobility and functions of joints
- Promoting a general state of well-being
- Restoring balance to the EC system
- Reducing anxiety and depression episodes
- Reduces the sensation of nausea and vomiting
- Supporting overall health
- Managing different psychiatric disorders
- Increasing insulin reduction
- Managing Autism
- Fighting obesity
The number of people starting to understand the fact that marijuana is not just a mild recreational drug is continuously growing. The number of doctors and scientists who agree and promote this plant as a bliss for those who live their lives in constant pain is also going up. The benefits of medical marijuana represent a relatively recent discovery for the scientific community, so there is still the need for further studies to find out its complete list of therapeutic properties and possible side effects. So far the number of unpleasant experiences discovered is quite short, and no death was ever recorded as a consequence of consuming this plant.
The story goes on
The story of Charlotte’s suffering and her amazing recovery with the help of CBD oil got the media’s attention and touched countless people across the country. Many found themselves and their sufferings in the story of this little girl and the amazing benefits of medical marijuana once again gain the spotlight as a subject of interest for the society. Even the famous Dr. Sanjay Gupta who always advocated against the use of marijuana acknowledged the benefits Charlotte got from using the extract of this plant and started his own investigation into the cannabis. Finally, he admitted that misconceptions stopped him from looking beyond the science and now he is one of the most prominent advocates of medical marijuana. Charlotte gave hope to other parents in similar situations and desperate to find a cure for their children.
The demand for Charlotte’s Web and other strains with similar composition increased beyond the expectations of Stanley Brothers. Parents, doctors, scientists, and campaigners try to increase the pressure on the federal government to rethink the official position on cannabis. And a small success is represented by a drug called Epidiolex, produced by GW Pharmaceuticals with purified CBD extract and approved for testing by the US Food and Drug Administration.
People like Charlotte are the true heroes and fighters of our era. The story of a little girl and her family who refused to give up the fight with a terrible disease inspired us to look beyond our daily routine and learn about what truly matters in life. It is this kind of story that gets the public attention and opens up debates about the therapeutic properties of CBD.
Before judging, it is essential to learn all the facts, and eventually, advocate for reform in the drug laws for the benefit of the people. Charlotte’s fight became a source of inspiration as far the cannabis community is concerned, and it brought more arguments for a new law regarding the use of medical marijuana. It is the determination and love of the Figi family that changed for the better Charlotte’s life and continues to do so for many other people who need access to a natural and effective solution, but they are prevented to obtain it due to the various laws that require an immediate update.