Australian family leaves home for life-changing cannabis oil treatments in B.C.
Published Tuesday, October 6, 2015 6:34PM PDT
An Australian family who moved their terminally ill daughters to Victoria to legally use cannabis oil says the girls’ lives have been transformed by the drug – but it might not last.
Georgia-Grace Fulton, 8, and Tabetha Fulton, 13, both suffer from a degenerative lung disease that is so rare it doesn’t have an official name, according to their mother Bobby-Jo.
Tabetha suffered a long list of symptoms including osteoporosis, secondary pulmonary hypertension and extreme fatigue because her inflamed lungs weren’t able to absorb oxygen into her bloodstream.
“Before the cannabis oil I obviously didn’t go to school very often, and just walking from our lounge room to my bedroom was a struggle,” said Tabetha.
“I would just walk around, get a little bit tired, and not really play that much,” said Georgia-Grace, who experienced fatigue. “I’d sit on the couch and watch TV all day.”
Both were put on heavy doses of corticosteroids to keep the inflammation down and hooked up to oxygen tanks 24 hours a day.
While the steroids appeared to be the girls’ only option, Bobby-Jo said the drugs started causing even worse side effects for Tabetha.
“The steroids were killing her faster than the lung disease itself,” she said. “To watch what Tabetha has gone through and know that we were on exactly the same path with her sister, it’s devastating. As a parent, it’s soul-destroying.”
After much research into the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis oil, Bobby-Jo started Tabetha on a 12-week treatment in Australia – despite marijuana not being legalized in that country.
She said the results were nothing short of miraculous. Tabetha was taken off her oxygen tank and was able to participate in school activities for the first time in her life.
“Within two weeks, she had a normal heartrate, which was unheard of,” she said. “By the five-week mark, the school asked me if she wanted to participate in their surfing program. So within six weeks, our daughter had gone from not even being able to play hide and seek, to surfing.”
It worked so well that the Fultons decided to leave everything behind and come to Victoria, where they can legally obtain cannabis oil thanks to National Access Cannabis, a leading Canadian medical marijuana program.
The girls take two millilitres of cannabis oil a day which has no active THC, meaning they avoid the feeling of being “stoned” – or any other unwanted side effects.
But their ordeal isn’t over yet. The family is only permitted to stay in Canada for up to six months and once that time is up they’ll be forced to return to Australia – and face legal action if they continue to use the treatment.
“To tell her, ‘I’m sorry honey, this is illegal in our country and you have to back to the way you were,’ how do you do that?” said Bobby-Jo.
“We can only stay six months, so basically we have to push the Australian government for a special exemption. We have no other choice. We can’t take our daughters off this now.”
NAC is tracking the family’s results and is also helping to lobby the Australian government for the exemption.
Friends of the Fultons have launched a GoFundMe page to support them while they continue their treatments in Canada.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Yvonne Raymond
Georgia-Grace, 8, and Tabetha, 13, say they have much more energy and don't need to use oxygen tanks during the day since being introduced to cannabis oil treatments. Oct. 6, 2015. (CTV Vancouver Island)
The girls each take two milliliters of cannabis oil per day, which greatly reduces lung inflammation that otherwise makes it hard to absorb oxygen into their bloodstream, according to their parents. Oct. 6, 2015. (CTV Vancouver Island)
The girls had to use oxygen tanks 24 hours a day before taking cannabis oil, according to their mother, Bobby-Jo. Oct. 6, 2015. (CTV Vancouver Island)