Katrina Spraggon with Kaitlyn, 9, on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Glenn Hunt.
Standing among the shoulder-high marijuana plants she grows to make “medicine” for her chronically ill daughter, Katrina Spraggon says this time there will be no quiet deal at the hospital, no hiding what she is doing.
The clock is ticking because nine-year-old Kaitlyn urgently needs surgery and her mother is adamant the little girl can’t have it without the home-brewed cannabis concentrate that keeps her pain and epileptic seizures at bay.
The standoff has pitched Ms Spraggon, 35, into a head-on confrontation with Queensland’s public health authorities, blowing wide open the “blind eye” that was turned previously when she brought out the cannabis while Kaitlyn was in hospital.
The dilemma is acute for new state Health Minister Steven Miles, who met this week with Ms Spraggon and Queensland chief medical officer Jeannette Young in a bid find a way for Kaitlyn to have her operation.
“The clinicians at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital are committed to making sure Ms Spraggon’s daughter receives the best possible care,” he said yesterday, explaining that he was prevented by law from discussing patients’ particulars. “I am aware of Ms Spraggon’s case and met with her … to discuss her concerns.”
An easing of restrictions since 2016 has created a legal minefield for regulators as patients clamour for access to medicinal cannabis, emboldening some to take the law into their own hands while an unlikely political alliance between the Greens and One Nation pushes for increased availability.
But Ms Spraggon says Kaitlyn is her only concern. The approved cannabinoids don’t contain enough THC — the active ingredient that delivers a marijuana “high” — to relieve the pain and symptoms of her daughter’s 19 chronic maladies, including drug-resistant epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
The child can’t speak or walk. In desperation, her mother turned to cannabis three years ago, prepared to give just about anything a try after painkillers and anti-seizure drugs left Kaitlyn at risk of respiratory failure, bedridden and dependent on bottled oxygen.
“All I am after is an exemption that will allow my daughter to have the cannabis treatment she needs,” Ms Spraggon said. “For three years the doctors have been all for it. It works — they know it does because they have seen my daughter at her worst on life support, and they have seen her at her best on cannabis.”
Things came to a head in August when Kaitlyn was rushed to the children’s hospital in South Brisbane and suffered a shattering fit. In the emergency room at Lady Cilento, Ms Spraggon was told she could no longer bring cannabis on to the premises: a blazing row ensued with medical services director Andrew Hallahan. “I got the cannabis out, I put a drop on my finger and just shoved it in his face,” she recalled. “I said, ‘What do you want me to do, Andrew, my daughter’s life is on the line’.”
The hospital relented, allowing her to administer the homemade paste for the duration of Kaitlyn’s three-day stay. But when they returned home on August 11, the police were on the doorstep. Ms Spraggon said she was upfront with them. “Everything was out on the bench in the kitchen,” she said. “I showed them the doctors’ letters and the policeman shook my hand and congratulated me. He told me to keep on doing what I was doing.”
In a statement, Queensland Police confirmed that “discussions where held with the woman in relation to her child’s medical condition and proposed treatment plan by doctors”. But “at no time were police shown, nor made aware of, illicit substances”.
On November 17, Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service advised the Health Ombudsman’s office, following a complaint by Ms Spraggon, that medical staff at Lady Cilento had been instructed to call the police if Ms Spraggon showed up again with cannabis. For now, that means the back operation she was due to have next week is up in the air, with her mother maintaining her stand that Kaitlyn won’t have the surgery until she is allowed the cannabis concentrate in hospital.
The Australian understands Queensland Health has found the daily dose administered by Ms Spraggon contains 0.47mg of THC, raising concern that the child could be being drugged rather than treated. But University of Sydney addiction medicine specialist Nick Lintzeris, involved in evaluating the use of cannabis for child epilepsy for Queensland Health, said this was not excessive when a standard THC dose for an adult was 20mg-40mg per day.
In an open challenge to authorities, Ms Spraggon said she was now growing her own marijuana instead of buying it on the black market. “If they are going to deny that cannabis is a medicine, I will show the world they are wrong,” she said.
Originally published here: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/health/mums-marijuana-battle-to-keep-kaitlyns-pain-at-bay/news-story/f5c4c682df1375d9c14757d4cc5429a3