LITHIA, Fla. - With the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida, one mother hopes other parents struggling to save their children from a life of misery caused by severe seizures will hold onto hope that relief is on the way.
Renee Petro has been a strong advocate for medical marijuana ever since traditional medicines failed to help her son Branden cope with Febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome (FIRES). It is a rare disease Petro said Branden developed when he was eight.
With the passage of Amendment 2 Petro said families have been given “hope, it’s a step in the right direction,” Petro said.
During our interview with Petro her son was smiling and laughing running around the dining room. Then, Petro realized he was about to have an attack.
She took off her microphone and grabbed Branden’s arm. Branden’s eyes then rolled back, saliva coming out of his mouth, and the laughing 14-year-old we were just watching was gone. He was having a severe seizure.
Petro and her mother gently laid Branden onto the carpet. Petro ran into the living room grabbed a cannabis nasal spray and gave it to Branden.
From the time he started to have a seizure to the time the medicine started working was just a few seconds. They picked Branden up and walked him to the couch to rest.
About five minutes later Branden was up running around the house again.
Without the cannabis nasal spray Petro said Branden’s seizure would probably have lasted for another 30 to 45 seconds and it would have been a lot more intense.
When Branden was first diagnosed he was on 20 different drugs to treat his seizures. Now, Petro said he is on just one pharmaceutical and she is currently weaning him off of that.
With medical marijuana Petro said “he just recently went 30 days without a seizure, and the aggression, rage, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, has virtually gone away just by weaning him off of these drugs.”
Petro wants to stress that come January 3rd patients won’t have access to all types of strains of medical marijuana.
“That does not mean you can go, if you are a patient right now and find other types of cannabis products, and find other types of cannabis products high in THC,” Petro said. “We are looking at 6 to 9 months down the road for those.”
Petro said with medical cannabis she has hope her son will lead a normal life.
“Nothing is scarier than what I've witnessed as a mother with my child. Nothing is scarier than having to call 911 because my son is pretty much losing his mind from the side effects of his medication, nothing worse than having nine to ten sheriff's in my home,” Petro said. “I am going to make sure he lives the best and happiest life he can period regardless of what that law or this law says. Because, at the end of the day, I'm his mother and I know what's best for him.”
Petro urges anyone who wants to use medical marijuana for treatment to see a doctor sooner rather than later. There is a 90 day waiting period once your doctor gives you approval.
Petro said legislators are still figuring out all the rules and regulations for medical marijuana so the logistics of getting medical marijuana could change.
“We do not know, yet, whether that 90 day window will go away,” Petro said. “You need to get in now. If you already have not otherwise, you are going to be waiting even longer.”
Petro said once Amendment 2 passed she felt “good… like we are getting somewhere.”
And Petro said her son’s healthy is going the right direction as well, and it’s all because of medical cannabis giving her and other families in Florida in similar situations, “hope, that there is something that has virtually no side effects that can stop or reduce the severity and duration of a seizure. It may not work every time, but if 90 percent of the time it works, we've won that battle. And everybody should have access to that. No matter what. Period.”
The nasal spray is not available in Florida, yet. Petro said it could be available sometime later this year if not sooner.