Renee Petro believes an illegal drug, marijuana, could save her son Branden’s life where sophisticated modern medical therapies have failed. Expert physicians say she might be right.
For three years, the Petro family of Fishhawk have lived through a nightmare that took away their smart, happy 8-year-old almost overnight, and left instead a child afflicted with constant seizures, severe learning disabilities and suicidal depression — a child who could die at any moment, his mother believes.
“I just want my son back,” Petro said in an interview at her home last week.
A raft of medications, a diet and a nerve-stimulating implant have failed to stop the daily seizures, which leave him with temporary paralysis and difficulty breathing. Surgery won’t help because the damage to his brain that causes the seizures is diffused, not in a single location.
A chemical contained in marijuana called cannabidiol, or CBD — one that doesn’t get you high — has stopped seizures in other children.
Among experts on this kind of brain damage, a form of epilepsy, “there’s a general consensus that it would help,” said neurologist Selim Benbadis, director of the epilepsy program at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and Tampa General Hospital.