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Doctors call the CPS on parents who treated their epileptic two-year-old daughter with cannabis oil

The toddler is suffering from a rare form of epilepsy and her parents did not want to risk the extreme side-effects of the drug they were prescribed by doctors
UPDATED FEB 13, 2020
(Source: Getty Images)
(Source: Getty Images)

When little Jaelah Jerger from Huntingburg, Indiana started having painful seizures at six months old, her parents Jade (34) and Lelah (32) were understandably concerned. After multiple doctors continuously denied that there was anything wrong with her, a neurologist finally diagnosed the child with epilepsy.

“Her seizures are quick jerks. They’re one to two-second jerks of her arms. She’s only two so she can’t really tell us if they’re painful, but sometimes she’ll cry right after she has them,” Lelah told People. “She’d just be walking around and all of a sudden she twitches. It was terrifying.”

Jaelah was diagnosed with benign myoclonic epilepsy in infancy, a rare disease. Doctors prescribed Levetiracetam, sold under the brand name Keppra, a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration but with possible side effects including depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies.

The Jergers decided to look for alternative medicine and found what they were looking for in the form of cannabis oil. The substance, which is extracted from the marijuana plant, contains concentrated CBD, one of the components of marijuana along with THC. Unlike the latter, CBD does not have any psychoactive effects; which is why it is legal for adult use in Indiana since last March. The couple procured the oil from a Colorado-based company in August 2017 and began administering it promptly.

“We saw immediate results. We had a 95 percent reduction in seizures right of the bat. We didn’t have any negative side effects. She was a normal 2-year-old!” Lelah said. “We’ve had absolutely no difference in Jaelah besides a reduction in seizures. We’re very grateful that we came across it.”

There have been a number of studies that suggest that CBD oil might be an effective treatment for epilepsy but doctors are still cautious. Without approval from the FDA or any other statutory body, there is very little quality control when it comes to cannabis-based treatments.

“Up to 20 percent of patients who try CBD for epilepsy have diarrhea as a side effect,” Dr Courtney Wusthoff, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford’s Division of Child Neurology, told People. “Fatigue and lethargy are other most common side effects.”

Excited at the improvement, the Jergers approached doctors with their results. Despite initial encouragement, the doctors soon turned on the couple and called Child Protective Services. “[They said] … they would take her. We were scared to death that they were not only going to take Jaelah but take our other kids too,” Lelah said. 

CPS officials reportedly did not prohibit the couple from using the oil. They did, however, order them to give the toddler Keppra as well simultaneously. After just five days on Keppra, Jaelah began to exhibit some of the side-effects according to her mother.

“We had to admit Jaelah into the hospital to have her taken off the medication because she was throwing up, she wasn’t eating, she wasn’t acting like her normal self,” Lelah said. “She would walk around the house crying for no reason. That wasn’t what we were used to seeing out of Jaelah.”

The couple has since stopped giving the child Keppra and now treat her purely with cannabis oil. They have also filed a complaint against CPS in the US Southern District Court for allegedly taking a blood sample from the child without a warrant and preventing the parents from approaching more than one doctor. Though Jaelah’s condition has reportedly improved, her parents are still terrified that the CPS officials will return to take her away for good.