Family hopes cannabis bill can help daughter suffering with severe epilepsy

  • Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 6:45 p.m., Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 4:39 p.m.
Mary Louise Swing, 6, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Her mother, Jill Swing, is considering moving to Colorado to take advantage of medical marijuana oil that may help Mary Louise's seizures.

COLUMBIA -Six-year-old Mary Louise Swing likes to listen to classical music, play with her twin brother, Winfield, and swing at a playground around her West Ashley home.

But there's a limit on what she can do with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She can't speak, and her mobility is limited, said her mother, Jill Swing. If Mary Louise is not on medication, she can have around 150 seizures per hour. Even with medication, Swing's daughter can have as many as 100 seizures in an hour. They come quick and sometimes involve falling; more often, Mary Louise blinks rapidly or her head drops back, Swing said.

After multiple medications, diets, trips to see doctors at Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere, the Swings saw a CNN report that seemed to offer hope: medicinal marijuana. The report featured "Charlotte's Web," a type of cannabis that has many with epileptic seizures flocking to Colorado, which has legalized medical and recreational marijuana.

Jill Swing considered moving to Colorado for her daughter. S.C. Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, heard the story and said he doesn't want the Swings to have to leave the state to get treatment. He introduced legislation Wednesday that he hopes would bring a clinical trial to the Medical University of South Carolina and help to Mary Louise and others.

Davis said that his legislation would direct the state to work with the hospital and Federal Drug Administration to bring an approved trial for Epidolex, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, to MUSC.

The drug uses a marijuana extract called Cannabidiol oil, which does not include the chemical THC, associated with the "high" effects of marijuana.

"The bottom line is just getting help to Mary Louise," Davis said. Because the drug is "non-psychoactive," he doesn't think the bill should be controversial. "I don't know how anybody could object to that. I would like to think it's a non-partisan type issue," he said.

Jill Swing said her daughter requires around-the-clock care. A nurse helps out for two hours a day during the week. She said her heart breaks when Winfield said he wishes his sister could speak and play more with him.

Family members said Davis's bill offers new hope. "He is my hero for sure," Jill Swing said.

Mary Louise's grandfather, Kenneth Swing Sr., says he hopes people who have never seen a child having an epileptic seizure will look up a video online to understand what happens.

"Any person who sees a video or sees a child that's suffering with this affliction ... I feel hopeful that 80 or 90 percent of the population will overlook the fact that this is a plant that's been abused," Kenneth Swing said.

Davis said he's hopeful the measure can pass this session.

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