No one has to tell David Mitchell about the positive effects medicinal marijuana can have on a person’s quality of life.
Mitchell has seen it work wonders for his 7-year-old son, Ashton, who has epilepsy and cerebral palsy, is blind and nonverbal and uses a wheelchair.
“Prior to the introduction of medical marijuana in the summer of 2015, my son was hospitalized every month in the ICU for a week to two weeks because of seizures. The seizures were uncontrollable once they started. The last one in (August) 2015 lasted over 10 hours,” said Mitchell, 63.
The 10-hour seizure tweaked something in Ashton’s brain, so when he enters the deepest part of his sleep cycle, his brain forgets to tell his lungs to breathe — so he is on oxygen and a ventilator, Mitchell said.
Ashton has gone into cardiac arrest due to the intensity of his seizures, and his father has had to perform lifesaving CPR on him several times.
It was at this point that David Mitchell and his wife, Dana, Ashton’s mother, decided to give medicinal marijuana a try.
“The pharmaceuticals were not working. We talked about it. We talked to his doctors about it. We registered in the (New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana) program. My wife had to register as his caregiver,” David Mitchell said. “A person with epilepsy, it’s a struggle every day of their life.”
The closest marijuana dispensary to where they live is the Compassionate Care Foundation in Egg Harbor Township.
The Mitchells had to decide what strain of marijuana to give their son. They picked a strain called Shark Shock, which has medical uses for pain, stress and muscle spasms.
Mitchell buys the marijuana as buds. He uses a device called the Magical Butter Machine to extract the essence of the cannabis into coconut oil. He combines the cannabis and coconut oil with chocolate pudding to feed to his son.
When Mitchell makes a batch of medicinal marijuana, he ends up with 600 milliliters, which lasts about five weeks.
Ashton receives three doses a day: once at breakfast, a smaller dose at 3 p.m. and a nighttime dose at 7 p.m.
Ashton has been on medicinal marijuana since August 2015, but he also is still on pharmaceuticals, Mitchell said.
“From 2015 until now, he still has breakthrough seizures. … But he has probably had (only) a half-dozen since that time,” said Mitchell, who added only two of the half-dozen seizures lasted more than 5 minutes.
Mitchell said he has noticed he has been able to sometimes talk his son out of a seizure since he has been taking the medical marijuana, and he could not do that previously.
Ashton can hear. He has learned about 40 language signs, using his sense of touch. He can crawl. He can say hi, bye and Mom and Dad.
“The medical marijuana truly works. It keeps it (the seizures) at bay,” said Mitchell, who added his son has the worst type of cerebral palsy. “He used to sleep in the fetal position. Three days after introducing medical marijuana, he slept with his legs straight.”
The Mitchells have a Facebook group page dedicated to their son called “givingourallforashton,” which chronicles his triumphs and his lulls.
“The medical marijuana has helped him tremendously,” Mitchell said. “It (cannabis) is an amazing medicine. That’s what people have to understand.”