The Miracle of Cannabis Gives Back a Young Girl Her Life

The Miracle of Cannabis Gives Back a Young Girl Her Life

By Carolanne Wright

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

Charlotte Figi. If you’ve seen Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary, WEED, you will recognize the name. Her life story made national headlines when the special aired in 2013.

Charlotte suffers from Dravet’s syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy that does not respond to medication. Usually the seizures begin within the first year of life. For Charlotte, they started when she was 3 months old. The disorder progresses as the child grows older with muscle spasms and status epilepticus (SE) that come in clusters, oftentimes lasting for 30 minutes or longer. Charlotte was having upwards of 300 grand mal seizures a week, which took their toll on her health, development and cognitive processing.

Within a few years, Charlotte had lost the ability to eat, talk and walk.

Her parents tried everything. At one point, Charlotte was on 7 different drugs. She was taken to Chicago by her mother Paige to see a Dravet specialist, who recommended a high fat, low carb ketogenic eating plan, which forces the body to produce seizure-calming ketones.

Within two years on the diet, the seizures were back.

Cannabis: A New Hope

Charlotte’s parents had run out of options. They had come to terms with the fact that their daughter could die from cardiac arrest. Several times, her heart did stop. Ultimately, they signed a do-not-resuscitate order, said their goodbyes.

But then Charlotte’s father came across a story online about a young Californian boy, also with Dravet’s syndrome, who was successfully treated with cannabis. The strain was low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana, but high in cannabidiol (CBD), which has only medicinal properties. In other words, CBD doesn’t make you high. A number of researchers believe CBD calms excessive chemical and electrical activity in the brain responsible for seizures.

At their wit’s end, Charlotte’s parents decided to give cannabis a try. However, Paige soon discovered that finding two doctors to sign off on a medical marijuana card for the young girl was nearly impossible.

Since childhood is a delicate time for brain development, many doctors are hesitant to recommend cannabis. Moreover, “[p]reliminary research shows that early onset marijuana smokers are slower at tasks, have lower IQs later in life, have a higher risk of stroke and increased incidence of psychotic disorders, leaving some scientists concerned,” writes CNN journalist Saundra Young. “Scientists don’t fully understand the long-term effects early marijuana use may have on children. Studies that show negative effects, such as diminished lung function or increased risk of a heart attack, are primarily done on adult marijuana smokers. But Charlotte wouldn’t be smoking the stuff.”

Instead, she would be using a high CBD oil.

Paige finally made contact with Dr. Margaret Gedde, who was willing to meet with the family. Says Dr. Gedde:

“(Charlotte’s) been close to death so many times, she’s had so much brain damage from seizure activity and likely the pharmaceutical medication. When you put the potential risks of the cannabis in context like that, it’s a very easy decision.”

The Figi’s also talked to Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Harvard educated physician with several medical marijuana patients. Due to Charlotte’s young age, he was very concerned, but decided to sign on because “they had exhausted all of her treatment options. There really weren’t any steps they could take beyond what they had done. Everything had been tried — except cannabis.”

The next hurdle was to find a cannabis dispensary that carried a high CBD strain of the plant. Since CBD doesn’t have psychoactive properties, there really isn’t much of a market for it. Paige eventually found a Denver shop with a type of marijuana called R4, which is low in THC and high in CBD.

She paid $800 for the last 2 ounces available and had a friend extract the oil. Paige had the CBD oil tested at a lab and measured out a small dose for Charlotte.

The results were nothing short of astonishing. Says Paige:

When she didn’t have those three, four seizures that first hour, that was the first sign,” Paige recollects. “And I thought well, ‘Let’s go another hour, this has got to be a fluke.’ 

The seizures stopped all together for the next week.

Both parents were stunned. But their CBD supply was running low and they weren’t sure if they would be able to find more.

By a stroke of luck, Paige soon heard about the Stanley brothers, one of Colorado’s top dispensary owners and marijuana growers. They also just happened to be crossbreeding a strain of marijuana that was high in CBD and low in THC — a form that they were having a hard time selling because nobody wanted it. Even so, the brothers were hesitant because of Charlotte’s young age. But after they met her, they decided to take the risk.

The other issue is cost. At retail value, the Figi’s would have to pay around $2,000/per month for an adequate supply of high CBD cannabis. In response, the Stanley brothers started the Realm of Caring Foundation, a nonprofit that supplies medical cannabis to adults and children suffering from a range of diseases, including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, who otherwise would not be able to afford it. They only ask that patients pay what they can. The organization is funded by the money they make from medical marijuana and donations from those who believe in the cause.

Charlotte takes the oil twice a day in her food.

Today, Charlotte is flourishing. Her seizures are down to only a couple per month and happen almost exclusively in her sleep. She is walking now and riding a bike. Her speech is improving and she can feed herself. For Charlotte and her family, it’s a miracle. Paige told CNN:

I didn’t hear her laugh for six months. I didn’t hear her voice at all, just her crying. I can’t imagine that I would be watching her making these gains that she’s making, doing the things that she’s doing (without the medical marijuana). I don’t take it for granted. Every day is a blessing.

‘WEED’ Documentary Dr. Sanjay Gupta HD

Article sources:

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About the author:

Carolanne Wright

I’m Carolanne — a writer, chef, traveler and enthusiastic advocate for sustainability, organics and joyful living. It’s good to have you here. If you would like to learn more, connect with me at or visit


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