Rowlett, Texas 02/16/15
Alexis is a 9-year-old from Rowlett, Texas. At the age of 7, Alexis experienced her first seizure. Her doctors began experimenting with prescription drugs to control the seizures, and soon after dangerous side effects started to take hold. Alexis’ seizures went from mostly at night to around the clock. She was forced to attend a private school that had an R.N. on duty with the medical training to deal with her condition. After being prescribed a drug with a black box warning label, the highest warning label the FDA can label a prescription drug, the Bortell family sought a second opinion.
The doctor eventually recommended they wean Alexis off all of her drugs entirely. This induced withdrawal symptoms like the child banging her head on the floor and extreme rage, to the point her parents locked up all of the knives fearing she would hurt her younger sister. A month later, the withdrawal symptoms suddenly stopped. Her seizures went back to being just around bedtime. After seeing the CNN documentary “Weed 2,” the family took a short trip to Colorado to meet with several doctors, who evaluated Alexis and determined medical cannabis could benefit her condition.
On the night of Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, Alexis had the biggest seizure of her life. As her convulsions lasted longer than normal and she remained unconscious for over five minutes, the family was rattled. The typical recovery time for a seizure is 30 minutes, but Alexis took over a week to recover from this seizure, during which she experienced stroke-like symptoms. After this episode, the family decided it was time to go to Colorado. They packed up their home and were in Colorado by March 1. Alexis began medicating with whole-plant cannabis oil the next day.
Denver, Colorado 03/17/15
Haleigh’s Hope, a whole plant cannabis oil, and a bottle of THC, which can be used as a rescue medication if a seizure starts to happen, sit on a blanket in the Bortell’s new apartment in Denver. After arriving in Denver, Colorado, Alexis began her treatment with cannabis oil immediately and saw results within the first week. Haleigh’s Hope, the marijuana strain that Alexis takes, is grown and manufactured in Colorado by Jason Cranford. The bottle on the right is whole-plant cannabis oil with a very small amount of THC, the active ingredient that gives a “high” feeling. It primarily contains a compound called CBD and does not give the “high” feeling commonly associated with marijuana. Instead, it has medical properties that could be applied to a wide spectrum of illnesses.
Longmont, Colorado 03/18/15
The oil that brought Alexis and her family to Colorado is grown just outside of Denver. Cranford grows the strain in a greenhouse in his backyard and manufactures the oil in a makeshift lab in his garage. Off a quiet country road near the mountains, Jason Cranford grows and manufactures whole-plant cannabis oil for patients in need, charging only a small amount more than what it costs to cover the costs of manufacturing. Each batch of oil made is also sent to a third-party laboratory for testing, and each patient receives test results that break down the exact amount of CBD and THC in each batch. Cranford services a small group of families like the Bortells, always keeping cost to a minimum. Together, these families have formed a community of loving people supporting one another in their respective medical journeys.
Denver, Colorado 03/17/15
Alexis takes two doses of Haleigh’s Hope a day, one in the morning when she wakes up, before school, and one at night, before bed. When asked how the cannabis oil made her feel, Alexis answered, “Happy and a little hungry.”
Alexis’ parents, Dean and Analiza Bortell, have had to adapt in many ways after Alexis’ condition began. Before medicating with cannabis oil, the parents traded nights to stay up all night to watch Alexis to protect her during her most sensitive time for seizures. The couple did this for nearly two years. Now that the seizures are under control, advanced video monitors sit in Alexis’s bedroom that detect motion and automatically start recording after 30 seconds of movement. After that, the companion screen in her parents’ room will start beeping to alert them of a seizure. Dean says the anxiety he and Analiza experienced near bedtime has eased since they moved to Colorado.
Denver, Colorado 11/29/15
Alexis Bortell has now been medicating with whole-plant cannabis oil for over eight months. She has only experienced seizure activity one time when she had the flu, shortly after arriving in Colorado. They adjusted the amount of THC in her oil once, and she has since been seizure-free.
Denver, Colorado 1/10/16
Now, several months after the last visit, Alexis is still seizure free. Since arriving in Colorado and having such great success with the cannabis oil, the activities Alexis was once banned from were now just within her grasp. Alexis has now learned to ride a bike, has had her first sleepover at a friend’s house and she will soon learn to ski. She now only shares her bed with her service cat Purdy each night.
During the stressful move, Analiza decided to buy Alexis a cat to try to ease the high emotions associated with moving to a new state for medical reasons. The cat, Purdy, serves as a service cat, with the ability to detect and alert when Alexis has a seizure. According to her parents, the cat sleeps throughout most of the day and stays awake all night to watch over Alexis.
Alexis’ relationship with her younger sister has become one full of piano lessons, Pokémon games and sisterly fights. Their parents no longer have to worry about violent or angry outbursts and can leave them alone to play with each other.
After leaving Texas, Dean has become a very active member in DFW NORML. He also runs the activist group Team Alexis, which has a Facebook page with nearly 17,000 likes. Dean has expressed interest in running for the Texas House of Representatives or heading to medical school to become a doctor so he can help other families like his.
Alexis is now at the top of her class and is reading at a 10th-grade level. She hasn’t had to miss any days of school at her new school in Colorado because of seizure activity. Her trips to the nurse are nearly non-existent. At her last school in Texas, she visited the nurse more than 50 times just in one school year.
The family is adapting to life here in Colorado without their family. With new friends and new career opportunities, the family is changing in more ways than one. Dean, who was the working parent out of the two, has decided to quit his job to take care of the kids, allowing his wife Analiza to return to full-time work as a software engineer.
It has been one full year since Alexis’ last seizure. She hit the year mark on March 18, 2016. Alexis has kept up with her Texas family with the Team Alexis Facebook page and flew in for the day to speak at the Southwest Cannabis Conference held in Fort Worth, Texas in March. The family promises they will continue to lobby for medical cannabis in Texas, hoping that one day they can return home.
The Green Migration project has morphed into a larger, collaborative multimedia project called Illegal Hope that includes photos, video and audio. We have yet to publish our first work as we are waiting to collect several before we finally show it off. If you or someone you know could benefit from medical marijuana but are still located in Texas, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information on how to join the project.