Sydney grandfather reveals how medicinal cannabis saved his granddaughter
(Supplied) Sydney businessman Barry Lambert doesn't apologise for ignoring the law. The 72-year-old decided to embark on a path of no return when his granddaughter Katelyn, now seven, began having seizures. She was just five months old and was soon diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. The gene mutation most commonly leads to intellectual disability and often death.
"After a particularly long seizure she was airlifted to the [Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick] because the seizure was going for two-and-a-half hours," Lambert tells Deborah Knight in this week's Honey Mums podcast.
"[Her condition is] incurable and she's on a whole range of medications.
"You’ve got to stop these seizures but really, modern medicine doesn’t stop them."
LISTEN: Hear more from Barry Lambert plus Jo Abi on dealing with moody teenagers and Sandy Rea's advice on how to navigate divorce.
With approved medications failing to halt the seizures, Barry's son, Michael, turned to the internet and discovered the benefits of medicinal cannabis.
It had been a year and Michael was desperate.
"He found a girl in the United States – just a few years older than Katelyn, with a similar condition.
"And she was miraculously improved by taking some hemp extract.
"But it's illegal in Australia and my son was concerned about that."
But that didn’t stop Michael, who knew the constant seizures were causing irreversible brain damage on his daughter.
"When she went on the hemp extract, miraculously, the seizures stopped the next day," Barry says.
But the law got in the way.
Michael was found guilty of possession and cultivation of cannabis in 2017 but a conviction was not recorded.
"We're talking about a harmless product – it's from hemp, it's not marijuana. When it comes to cannabis, marijuana is up one end and at the other end of the spectrum is the hemp plant which has all the same benefits but doesn't make you high.
"We don't grow marijuana and we’re not involved in marijuana.
"[Katelyn is] like any other kid now – you can have a normal conversation and 12 months ago you probably couldn't have understood her very well.
"She's improving dramatically day by day. And she was brain damaged. She doesn't have the seizures anymore and her brain is recovering and continues to develop. She's doing well."
Barry, who was once ranked Australia's 156th wealthiest people, decided to throw his financial weight behind the research into medicinal cannabis.
Over 10 years, he's donated $34 million to the University of Sydney, creating what is now the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics.
"The benefit is we can alleviate a lot of symptoms for a lot of people simply by using hemp extract.
"This is just not about our daughter - our funding is on the basis that you have to do what's best for mankind.
"We should have hemp extract legal in this country. It's absolutely silly as to what's going on in this country.
"It's mind-blowing and for reasons we can't understand."
Although it is legal in some areas in Australia, finding a doctor to prescribe medicinal cannabis is hard.
"It's a human right that you should be able to have your health protected and it's a basic government right – the government should be looking after people's health just as they defend them against foreign invasion.
"The government has got to get its act together.
"This is a crime against humanity and something needs to be done about it.
"So what should people do? They should do what we do and ignore the law because they've got to put their children first."
LISTEN: Hear more from Barry Lambert on how he's fighting to make medicinal cannabis more accessible to Australians plus Jo Abi on dealing with moody teenagers and Sandy Rea's advice on how to navigate divorce.
Originally published here: https://honey.nine.com.au/2018/08/21/06/46/sydney-grandfather-reveals-medicinal-cannabis-saved-granddaughter