by Louise Doyle
A WOMAN campaigning to have cannabis legalised for medicinal purposes for her young daughter who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy has called on any families in Donegal going through the same situation to get in touch.
Vera Twomey, from Cork, contacted the Donegal News in the wake of a story which appeared in this newspaper revealing how Buncrana woman, Candice Faulkner, was spearheading a Facebook campaign to legalise cannabis for medical purposes via ‘Donegal Cannabis Social Club’. The story has been receiving a hugely positive reaction online.
Vera’s daughter, Ava Barry (6), was diagnosed with the extremely rare drug resistant form of epilepsy known as Dravets Syndrome in 2010. Little Ava can have hundreds of seizures daily and frequently has to spend long periods of stay in hospital. Vera says many drugs have been tried and failed to treat her seizures.
Vera says the only way to control her daughter’s seizures is through medicinal cannabis, which is available legally in the United States, Australia, Brazil and more recently, Columbia.
Patients are treated with a very safe medicinal cannabis with none of the associated highs of marijuana because THC, the psychoactive component is removed.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Vera said she is looking for a change in the law in Ireland to give Ava a better quality of life, adding how everyday life for her little girl and wider family is “incredibly tough”.
“I have been looking for a change in the law to get cannabis made legal in Ireland soley for medicinal purposes.
“On Thursday last, Ava had 16 seizures in one day. Her seizures involve her going to the ground and coming in and out of them. I administer medication in the first instance, usually for shorter seizures, but if they continue an ambulance has to be called as breathing is compromised. These seizures have an horrendous impact on her little body and everyday life is incredibly tough for her and our family.
“Medicinal cannabis is absolutely suited for children Ava’s age and younger. Studies have shown that were children have been administered the cannabis oil for medicinal purposes, there has been a reduction of 80 percent in seizures in some cases.
“It’s legalised in Poland and will be legalised in Germany next year.”
Vera has set up a petition on Change.org, which, to date, has garnered more than 11,000 signatures. The busy mother-of-four has also taken her campaign to Health Minister, Simon Harris.
“We started a petition on Change.Org for Ava in November last year, which has over 11,000 signatures added to it. People are posting signatures from all over the world to add to it. I haven’t received any negativity, people have been so positive and supportive.”
Vera said she met Health Minister, Simon Harris, in June, after giving an interview on Newstalk.
“I implored him to help us and I said I would go and stand outside the gates in Dublin if he didn’t respond. He rang me that evening. He was a very nice and compassionate man and he wanted to help. We met with him and he took a note of all our concerns. He was very supportive and he and his team have been in contact since.” There’s some positivity because on the final day of the Dail earlier this year People Before Profit’s TD, Gino Kenny tabled a motion calling for a change in the law for medicinal use.
The Minister with responsibility for drugs, Catherine Byrne, earlier this week pledged to examine the Bill tabled by Mr Kenny to legalise cannabis for medical use.
“I think a lot of the confusion for some people centres around the idea that people will be smoking it if it is legalised and that is not the case. In my daughter’s case, for example, the oil will be rubbed onto her cheek and will dissolve quickly. There is no smoking involved and I am simply advocating its legalisation for medicinal purposes and no other.
“I would really like to hear from any other families in Donegal who are in the same position as my family because I think the more numbers we have standing together on this issue, the better.”
Anyone who would like to make contact with Vera can do so via CBD For Ava Support via Facebook.