A local teenager found relief from seizures through THC, but only after a long legal process.
Tammy Searcy is a medical cannabis advocate and mother of five. Her daughter, Brianna, has a severe form of epilepsy that causes her to have frequent seizures. The Searcy family has visited a number of doctors throughout Brianna’s life to try to mitigate the effects of her condition, though often with limited success. She is on 10 different pharmaceuticals, all of which are narcotic.
“I’m sitting here going, ‘Wait a minute. We’re on all these meds and we’re still having seizures. What’s the point?’ And at this point, it could be deadly,” Searcy said.
Brianna’s seizures started when she was 28 months old. Throughout the next 14 years, Searcy heard a variety of responses from doctors.
“I was told by a doctor all I could do was pray because she probably didn’t have long to live and they didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
One course of treatment that has worked for Brianna is medical cannabis.
“I thought, ‘Maybe, just maybe. … And I won’t do anything illegal so [we’ve] got to change the law,’” Searcy said.
Searcy first heard about the effectiveness of medical cannabis from a YouTube video showing a child being administered CBD to the bottom of the foot. The seizures stopped in less than a minute.
After 14 years of uncertainty, medical cannabis provided some hope to the Searcy family. Eager to see the full effects of medical cannabis for her daughter, Searcy has been on the frontlines of the fight to legalize medicinal cannabis in Oklahoma.
“I was fully involved,” she said. “I spent 16 hours a day, seven days a week petitioning and being at the Capitol. My other kids were standing on the street corners as well, just trying to put my daughter out there.”
“Within 24 hours, she was out of the wheelchair,
and within 48 hours, she was riding a horse and saying words again.”
Searcy was able to bring attention to her daughter’s situation and raise awareness for how medical cannabis can be used to treat a variety of conditions.
She also caught the attention of Oklahoma Department of Human Services, which argued her activism was detrimental to her children.
DHS took all five of Searcy’s children into custody for a year on the grounds that posting a video of her daughter having a seizure at the state Capitol was irresponsible. They were taken from her Dec. 11, 2017.
“It was all over my activism. … They told me in the very beginning that if I would just shut my mouth about [State Question] 788 and admit I was wrong, they would give them back,” Searcy said.
After hiring a lawyer and having the case heard in front of a new judge, she eventually won custody of her children and got them back exactly a year later in December 2018.
“Right after we got the new judge, everything changed. … Now I’m looking at a federal lawsuit for civil rights violations,” she said.
After a discussion with Brianna’s neurologist, Searcy began working toward getting her daughter a medical cannabis card.
“When we started with CBD alone without THC, the change was huge,” Searcy said. “Within 24 hours, she was out of the wheelchair, and within 48 hours, she was riding a horse and saying words again.”
Brianna has been on “whole-plant” medical cannabis for two weeks, and in that time, she has seen continuous improvement.
“Others that have been around her … they can’t believe the difference,” she said. “They’ve said it’s miraculous. It’s like a whole different child.”
Searcy’s experience with Green Hope Wellness Clinic in Moore has been positive and welcoming.
“I told her we were going to be getting [it], but we didn’t have her card yet,” Searcy said. “All my money has gone to the lawyer that helped me get my kids back.”
Renee Harper, owner of Green Hope Wellness Clinic in Moore, was able to help Brianna get her card. To get a medical cannabis license, an adult must first have a recommendation from a doctor. For minors, two doctors must sign off on the recommendation.
Harper started Green Hope Wellness in Moore with the aim of giving Oklahoma residents access to medical cannabis. The clinic offers a variety of services. The doctors on staff are qualified to issue medical cannabis recommendations, and several educational resources for patients and family members are also available.
“We just started our pediatric program not too long ago. … Some of the doctors are still leery of doing the first [signature], but after they see some of the children we’re seeing and how bad they need cannabis … they kind of just warm up and say, ‘Hey, I’ll do one,’” Harper said.
Her goal in starting the clinic was to get patients — both adults and children — off more intense prescription drugs.
“[We see] kids with ADHD running around here on Ritalin, and then they’re giving them adult blood pressure medicine to counteract the effects of that,” Harper said. “It’s just awful. …. I encourage everyone, whether they’re pediatric or adults or whatever, to start there anyway just because CBD for some … it will help, and then others will need the THC.”
Harper was able to get Brianna her recommendation in a matter of days, much to the relief of her mother.
“Now that we’re treating with whole-plant marijuana, we’re walking in heels … and not falling all over the place,” Searcy said.
In addition to allowing Brianna greater mobility, her treatment with medical cannabis also decreased the frequency and severity of her seizures.
“The following day, the school would not let us administer at school,” she said. “She did not get the noon dose, and she had a seizure at 12:30. Other than that, she had no seizures at all that next day.”
After passage of SQ788 and being able to medicate her daughter with both CBD and THC, Searcy is relieved and optimistic. Though the fight to keep her daughter safe and healthy is far from over, for the moment, it appears as though her battle for medicinal cannabis has been a success.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re here,” Searcy said. “To think that we’re here now, this many years later … it’s pretty awesome.”