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Medicinal cannabis: Irish mother's relief over treatment for daughter's seizures

Ava Barry, 6, suffers from an extreme form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome Image copyright Vera Twomey
Image caption Six-year-old Ava Barry suffers from an extreme form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome

"The possibility of losing your child is with you every day and you can't take your eyes off them," says Vera Twomey, from County Cork, whose daughter Ava suffers from a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.

Ava's seizures can last anything from two minutes to a couple of hours and vary in intensity.

"This time last year our little girl had a cardiac arrest after 16 seizures," Vera recalled.

'Effectiveness'

Her daughter's seizures have reduced significantly since October when she began taking a legal form of cannabis oil known as CBD or Charlotte's Web.

"The CBD oil has demonstrated in our own home the effectiveness of the medicinal cannabis," she said.

"Her seizures have reduced by 80% to 90% after she began taking the CBD.

"She had seven seizures in October in total and our daughter previously would have had seven seizures in a couple of hours.

"This time last year between October and December we were in hospital continuously bar about five or six days in those couple of months. We haven't seen the inside of a hospital since September this year."

Image copyright Vera Twomey
Image caption Vera Twomey with her daughters Ava (right) and Sophia

Clinical trials have indicated that Dravet syndrome can respond well to THC, a component of cannabis.

Ms Twomey had previously petitioned the Republic of Ireland's legislature to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis but to no avail.

In November, she set off from her home in the remote village of Aghabullogue with the intention of walking to the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) in Dublin to highlight the issue.

During her 150-mile trip, she begged the Irish health minister to listen to her in a Facebook post.

'Delighted'

Simon Harris got in touch and subsequently announced plans to review the government's policy on medicinal cannabis.

On Thursday night, the Dáil (Irish parliament) passed a bill to make cannabis available in the Republic of Ireland for medicinal use.

Ms Twomey, who was in Dublin to see the bill being passed, said she was "delighted".

"We were so happy that so many of the TDs from all the different parties had something positive to say about this bill and that they all came together and really help the people who are out there that really need this medicine," she said.

"We'd like to get it as soon as we possibly could but we need it done right as well, so I hope they're not going to be taking too long to deliver the legislation to us, but we're thrilled that we're another step closer to getting the legislation passed. There seems to be a great will to get this done for people out there."

She said her daughter had improved so much in the past few months, but was hopeful she could improve further if she had access to THD.

Image copyright Vera Twomey
Image caption Vera said Ava was happier and in less pain since starting to take CBD, a legal form of cannabis oil, in October

"It has given her a quality of life that she didn't have before," she said.

"We can do more normal things now, we can go for a little journey in the car, we can go for a little walk.

'Happier'

"Before it was worry, worry, worry, every single moment. Obviously we're still concerned about her and monitoring her carefully all the time but it's definitely a better standard of life of her.

"She's happier and in less pain and sleeping better.

"Her appetite is also better and in school her teachers say she's getting on better with her classmates and teachers so every aspect of Ava's life has improved.

"The medicinal cannabis won't just give Ava back a life, but it will give us back a life that's more free."

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