Fairfield Township resident Ethan Robinson is an executive chef for the Kroger and aspiring writer. He wrote this during a stay at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton in mid-December.
So here I sit in a hospital bed connected to machines and wires. I have been admitted to the epilepsy monitoring unit for 72 hours of observation to determine why my brain operates in the fashion that it does.
I am an epileptic. I was diagnosed a little over 12 years ago shortly after my 21st birthday. It has taken me the better part of the last decade to come to terms with my "cross to bear." At times my condition has been manageable, and at others it has become so incredibly uncontrolled that I find myself in my current predicament.
Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder after stroke and Alzheimer's disease. It affects 3 million Americans of all ages. Approximately 200,000 new cases of seizures and epilepsy occur each year. One in every 10 Americans will experience a seizure at some point in their lives. Three percent will eventually develop epilepsy.
In nearly 70 percent of cases, the cause is unknown. The most common causes for the remaining 30 percent include head trauma resulting from automobile accidents, gunshot wounds and sports accidents; brain tumor and stroke; poisoning (such as lead or alcohol) and infection. Some rare forms are genetic. Epilepsy is never contagious; it is impossible to get it from or give it to another person.
Epilepsy affects more people than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's combined – yet receives fewer federal dollars per patient than each of these conditions.
Medical science has come a long way in treating this disease over the last 50 years, but the most common treatment – medication – results in life-changing side effects. As a result of numerous medications that I have taken over the last decade I have experienced confusion, memory loss, insomnia, weight gain, extreme exhaustion, short-term changes in personality, shortness of breath, panic attacks, tremors, compromised ability to heal and temperature intolerance – not to mention continuing to experience seizures. My point is that for most of us the status quo for effective treatment is to still feel like crap at any given moment and still potentially experience seizures.
I am personally calling on all lawmakers and political movers and shakers to address this major health issue.
The Epilepsy Foundation and the patients it serves deserve more funding at the federal and respective state levels. As noted in the statistics above, this affliction affects a larger portion of the population than most people are aware of. Due to the fact that the condition is not trendy, buzz-worthy or sensationalized by the media, it gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to funding research for new treatment alternatives.
One of these potential treatments is medical marijuana. I know what you are thinking: "This is just one more fool trying to get pot legalized in Ohio." And to a certain extent you would be right. For most of us epileptics the current cache of medications available to us are only somewhat effective at best. We get to experience horrible side effects, suffer setbacks when seizures continue to resurface, and spend more than a mortgage payment on one month's worth of treatment.
This is the hand that most of us have been dealt … but it doesn't have to be. With medical marijuana becoming more prevalent across the country I see no reason why Ohio cannot do the same. I want to be absolutely crystal clear: I have absolutely no interest in getting high. I am only interested in treatments derived from cannabis oil. To have access to the same options that are available to other Americans with epilepsy would be life changing for more than a few of us.
Medical marijuana could be locally grown and harvested, which would not only ensure a quality made American product but provide jobs as well. It is criminal that we have a resource like this at our disposal, that can be mass produced quickly and cheaply, and we are not taking advantage of it.
Medical marijuana to treat epilepsy has not been well studied by the FDA so far, but success stories continue to surface out West. Patients are experiencing control over their seizures with few to no side effects – all from something that grows in the ground and isn't a finely mixed chemical concoction transported from thousands of miles away.
Many epileptics are well controlled utilizing the medications currently available on the market. Many experience side effects so minute that they are barely noticeable at all. But for those of us who are not that fortunate I only ask that we be given the same opportunity to live a less complicated life.