Dr. Thomas Minahan, Conservative Christian and ER Physician, Turns to Medical Marijuana, CBD Oil, to Treat His Daughter’s Catastrophic Epileptic Seizures.
Today there are more than 20 states around the country that are legalizing marijuana. While recreational marijuana use is frowned upon, creating a negative stigma that has been attached to the drug for many years, many people believe that the drug should be legal for medical uses.
The new legalization will help researchers study the drug’s medicinal uses, and allow them to better understand how it impacts the body. Currently, only 6% of studies on marijuana analyze its medicinal aptitudes. The plant contains at least two active chemicals that researchers believe have medicinal value:
- cannabidiol (CBD), which impacts the brain without producing a high
- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which contains pain relieving properties.
The medicine can be taken in pill form, or orally through a dropper, which are both more effective ways of ingesting the medication.
Parents of children who are suffering from various forms of epileptic seizures are often faced with a double-edged sword and a difficult decision. When all other treatments have failed, they are forced to make a difficult decision. They can opt to give their child controversial CBD oil that has shown to drastically change lives by almost completely eliminating seizures, or they can stand by, after trying every single legal medical option available to them has failed, and watch their child suffer with declining health.
Dr. Thomas Minahan is the Director of Emergency Medicine Residency and Attending Physician at one of the busiest trauma centers in Southern California. He is Board Certified in Emergency Medicine, and is also a parent who, along with his wife Carrin, has stared this decision in the face. Residing in Corona, California with his wife and four children (ages 8 to 12), Dr. Minahan and his family have fought quite the battle to help Mallory, who is now 11 years old. Mallory has suffered from intractable seizures since she was fourteen months old.
I was lucky enough to steal an hour of undivided attention from Dr. Minahan’s busy life last week to discuss the experience he and his family have been through in their attempt to help his daughter Mallory for the past decade.
I caught up with him while he and his son were traveling to take part in Adventures in Fatherhood, an outdoor experience sponsored by Focus on the Family, to spend a week of one-on-one interaction together, and uninterrupted time with God. The Minahans are a conservative Christian family who is deeply committed to their faith.
At only 14 months old, their daughter Mallory began having seizures. Her condition failed to respond to treatments that bring relief to the majority of patients suffering from Epileptic seizures. The long journey would test their moral structure and their faith as they would exhaust every avenue to find some kind of relief for their daughter.
Mallory was having up to 12 seizures a day, taking up to three drugs at one time, having difficulty breathing and suffering horrific side effects from the prescription drugs she was prescribed. Often times, the drugs would leave her trembling and shaking, or in a “zombie-like” state, unable to function properly. The drugs would sometimes bring her relief for a month or two, but the side effects would set in and become too much for her tiny body to handle.
Because Dr. Minahan is a physician, he had access to research and information on every available option for treating children who are suffering from epileptic seizures.
He left no stone unturned, trying just about every treatment possible, including but not limited to, the following:
- Earthing (a fast-growing movement based upon connecting to the Earth’s natural energy for healing)
- Gluten Free Diet
- Atkins Diet
- Ketogenic Diet (highly effective for treatment of Epilepsy in many cases)
- UCLA modified, low-carb diet.
Dr. Minahan described how difficult these diets were for Mallory at times, especially during holidays and gatherings:
“She could only eat a specific amount of certain foods while everybody else was filling their plates with everything they wanted. It was very difficult at times…Heartbreaking.”
Mallory’s food had to be weighed on a scale when she was on the Ketogenic Diet, and it was comparable to a starvation diet, according to Dr. Minahan. These alternative treatments, like the medications, were unsuccessful.
There was a point in time that Dr. Minahan, during one of his many conversations with God, let God know that if it was time for Mallory to go be with him, and this would take the pain away from her life, he would try to accept that. Watching her struggle, trapped in her body and unable to live a pain free life, was just not fair for her.
Though he did not want to let her go, he wanted her pain and struggling to end.
Just about this time, the tide began to turn. The Minahans, knowing no other place to turn, met with an expert who told them they had two more choices. One was a drug by the name of Felbatol, a pharmaceutical drug that is only used in severe cases of epilepsy, where the risks of Aplastic Anemia (when your body stops producing enough blood cells) would outweigh the risks of severe epileptic seizures. It carries with it a 20%-30% risk of death, sometimes even higher.
The other alternative mentioned was CBD (cannibidiol oil), derived from the marijuana plant, which had been showing very promising signs for epileptic patients. It is given in the form of drops under the tongue, carries no side effects, and does not contain the psychoactive chemical that causes a person to get a “high” from using it. It is purely medicinal.
Dr. Minahan looked the physician in the eye and asked,
“What would you do if it were your child?”
The answer he received was CBD oil. The Minahans left the physician and returned home to weigh their options that would determine their daughter’s future.
Could they do something that was viewed federally as “illegal”, going against their moral and ethical beliefs?
Should they risk giving Mallory a harsh pharmaceutical drug that could potentially take her life?
“It’s not a choice for us. We are saving our daughter’s life.” – Dr. Minahan
That night, coincidentally, the Minahans noticed a special on CNN that was about the healing properties of CBD oil, and got the reassurance they needed. It was an answered prayer. Seeing was believing, and they would do whatever it took to bring the same relief to their own child. They managed to find a dispensary in Los Angeles that would give them access to the oil, and they began treating Mallory with it.
Life Changing Results
“It was like nothing I’ve seen in ten years.” – Dr. Minahan
Mallory’s seizure frequency decreased 90%, and there were no side effects.
Dr. Minahan described one particular morning when Mallory got in the front seat of the car they were waiting in, turned around to her family and asked,“Well, how is everybody doing today?” with a smile on her face. She had never done this before. This was when the Minahans knew that Mallory was going to have a shot at a normal life they had prayed for her to have for so very long.
She is back in school for the first time, she is alert and happy, and it has changed her life. It is truly a miracle.
The Minahans are fortunate enough to be able to afford this treatment for Mallory, though so many others have no access, nor the funds to treat their children. Because the treatment is unregulated, bottles of the CBD oil received can be mislabeled, or contain the wrong ingredients, and this can be dangerous. Much caution must be taken.
Those who use marijuana for recreational purposes have not helped the stigma attached to the naturally grown plant. Yet Dr. Minahan has the insight that allows him to realize this:
“If it wasn’t for the recreational use of marijuana, it may not have been around today for Mallory and others who are reaping the healing benefits from it.”
There is truly a double-edged sword at play. As a physician, Dr. Minahan is convinced that the medical community is not going to take medical marijuana seriously until those who are fighting for its cause present their cases in a more professional light. The line between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana must be drawn clearly.
Many politicians refuse to take a stand for medical marijuana because they just don’t want to go there. It’s a very touchy subject and there’s too much for them to risk until more people are educated about its healing powers.
The Minahans say they are blessed for the support provided to them by family, friends and the community in general. Their mission?
“It is important to us to take a conservative approach to this issue. We acknowledge the rampant abuse of marijuana and we DO NOT endorse cannabis as a means to get high. We are simply seeking medicinal relief for Mallory and many other children, based on the hope that cannabis and CBD research and development offers. This is our mission, and we invite you to join us in continuing support of these parents, family members, their children and MALLORY’S HOPE.”
To learn more, visit MallorysHope.org. Dr. Minahan is available for interviews and speaking engagements on the subject of pediatric epilepsy and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom and Carrin share their own findings and experiences on their Facebook page, and they encourage other families to join them at Facebook.com/SupportMallorysHope.