Medical Marijuana has been Life-Changing for Tyler Richard. A year ago it was hard to even count how many seizures Tyler Richard would have in one day. Diagnosed with autism and epilepsy, Tyler, now 14, was on a dozen different medications.
Some seizures were small and barely noticeable, but others were so massive that his mom, Toni Richard, would check his breathing. Often, she would administer CPR and dial 911.
Overcome with thousands of seizures a week, Tyler also never slept.
“In 13 years he maybe slept through the night 50 times it was like having a newborn forever.” Tyler’s mom, Toni
Tyler had dark circles under his eyes. Escalating outbursts became common. Richard, a single mom who teaches at Truckee Meadows Community College, was tired, too. She learned to lock the white picket fence around her house so her son couldn’t run away. She would be up all night making sure he wouldn’t hurt himself or escape from the family’s home.
Occasionally, she would rent a hotel room, put Tyler inside and sleep in the hallway, desperate for a few hours of rest.
As Tyler’s seizures got worse, she got more scared. She watched as some seizures caused the right side of her son’s face go into paralysis and droop.
Tyler and Medical Marijuana
Last year, the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center suggested medical marijuana. They were doing a study with children and had seen some good results.
“I had done my research, but knowing I have doctors behind me helps,” she said. First doctors wanted Tyler to try marijuana to see if it would him sleep.
“The first night we tried it he slept through the night,” she said. Since then, her son sleeps. He has fewer outbursts and is more alert.
He is doing better in school, she said. But from the beginning, she was on her own to figure out the correct dosage, what strain of marijuana to use and where to buy it. During the Nevada Disability Conference in Reno in July, Richard, local pediatrician Krista Colletti and other parents shared their perspective on medical marijuana in a workshop.
“It is a medication we need to know more about (medical marijuana)” Says Toni
Coletti has signed for local families to get a Nevada marijuana license.
But Colletti said families need to seek the advice of specialists, often from outside the area. She said things such as weaning off other medications and starting medical marijuana should be under the advice of a neurologist. Seeing success, doctors agreed marijuana may have a positive impact on other parts of Tyler’s health. He started using it to treat seizures.
Since September 2014 when he started it, he hasn’t had a seizure.
Richard knocks on wood, saying for her son, it has made a huge difference. She is quick to warn that what worked for her son may not work for others. She shared her story only to talk about her situation, and in no way wants families to take her story as medical advice.Most families using medical marijuana are afraid of talking about it.
Legally, they are allowed to grow the plant themselves with a license. If they purchase the product from dispensaries out of state, they risk violating federal law by crossing state lines. Richard said there are many misconceptions. She said her son isn’t out smoking pot in some alley. Tyler’s dose comes in gel form, a tiny drop that Tyler swallows.
“I’m just trying to keep my kid alive”
Fear of Marijuanas Federal Status
Toni said of those who would criticize her choices. Despite medical marijuana being legal in Nevada, Richard knows it’s still is a federal crime. “You have to hope the feds have many other things to do,” she said.
But she said it helps to have three UCSF doctors and one local pediatrician backing her decision to give her son medical marijuana. As dispensaries continue to open in Northern Nevada, Richard expects things to get easier for parents.”It will become more talked about,” she said. “It should be easier for parents to get information.”