The phone call I had with Dahlia Barnhart’s mother, Mo, still haunts me.
Mo calmly described the life-threatening medical procedures her 3-year-old daughter, who has inoperable brain tumor, has undergone. Dahlia recently had surgery to put a shunt in her skull, without pain medication. I was stunned, I cannot imagine how much pain this small child suffered during the procedure and she couldn’t possibly understand what was happening to her.
Then I learn that she has had three other similar procedures, one of which almost killed her.
When Dahlia was just 2-years-old, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Anaplastic Astrocytoma. In May 2013, it presented as an inoperable brain tumor deep in the middle of her brain. Faced with life threatening surgery, ravaging chemotherapy and harsh radiation for Dahlia, Mo, a single mother, didn’t know what to do.
The doctors found that the radiation needed to shrink Dahlia’s tumor would leave her permanently brain damaged due to it’s location in the center of the brain, the hypothalamus.
Explaining further, Mo says, “Full cranial and spinal radiation absolutely causes brain damage. She would be severely brain damaged.” Knowing this, she opted to not have Dahlia undergo the radiation and started researching alternatives.
Mo was passed information about the potential of cannabis not just to relieve her daughter’s pain, but to shrink her inoperable tumor as well.
Read more about how cannabis may shrink cancerous tumors:
Mo decided to seriously look into cannabis after her daughter died momentarily on the operating table. For the first shunt in her brain, to help reduce the fluid, Dahlia was finally administered pain medication—and then she stopped breathing.
After an agonizing revival process that Mo could only witness helplessly, Dahlia was revived but it was clear, she couldn’t be given more pain medication. What is a mother supposed to do in this position? The medical procedures requiring pain medication prolong Dahlia’s life. Without them, the chances of her survival drop significantly.
“I didn’t realize that you couldn’t apply for compassionate care,” she says, regarding cannabis.
Upon release from the hospital, Mo was unwilling to give her daughter morphine, citing the scare during the operation. The doctors told her to increase other medications. When Dahlia was rushed to a separate hospital for a second shunt, the new hospital refused to give her morphine as well, which just added further validation for cannabis use.
“(The) prognosis is unknown but is never good in this situation… brain cancer never has a good prognosis; then her tumor can’t be removed, and radiation isn’t a viable option. 1 in 5 will not make it the first 5 years. 1 in 3 will not live out their full life’s span and wind up with future cancers from radiation and chemotherapy.”
With Mo’s research complete, she turned to Dahlia’s doctors at St. Jude’s for more information on cannabis, to find out what steps she would need to take to provide it to her daughter. She didn’t have any idea what she was in for with that battle.
The State of Tennessee does not recognize medical cannabis. The only cannabis laws in the state say that a person who possesses or uses cannabis can go to jail, which is certainly not an option for a single mother of two children, one of which is very ill. The doctors have a palpable need to protect their licenses in non-medical states and often refuse to even discuss cannabis use as medicine.
After discussing cannabis for Dahlia with the doctors, she was told that it isn’t something that they can give her, even as a last resort, not even out of compassion, because federally it was a Schedule I controlled substance.
Mo had to make a difficult decision: risk Dahlia’s quality of life, indeed, her very life, by staying in a state where her daughter cannot get proper care, or uproot their entire family and move to a compassionate state where Dahlia can live in comfort? Her research has helped her realize the truth: it’s time to leave.
Through help from the Undergreen Railroad, the Barnhart’s are now in Colorado Springs, CO, so that Dahlia may receive proper care to treat her tumor. Due to the sudden nature of the trip, and its critical urgency, they have absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Undergreen Railroad is an organization I started with other concerned parents to help those families living in prohibition states, those in the most need, to escape to compassionate states where they can receive proper healthcare. We are currently accepting donations to help Dahlia’s family get settled while they secure her safe access to care.
“This is a human being issue, and this is a human suffering issue,” says Mo, “That’s the end of the story. That’s all there is to it, it’s just that simple.”
Read more about the Undergreen Railroad in Issue 10 of Cannabis Now Magazine
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