Hi, I'm Sarah. I'm a Medical Refugee.
BY SARAH S. | JANUARY 15TH, 2018
As our plane landed on a Las Vegas tarmac in January 2018, I stared at all the lights from the window just knowing that from that point on, my life was going to change forever.
I was there to marry my best-friend and soul mate. For better or worse. In sickness, and in health. But there’s no cure for my condition, so there was no getting better. It was just sickness, and no hope for better health. At least that's what the medical community told me and I believed them. I had no hope, until on that trip, everything changed.
First, let me give you some background. I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It is a connective tissue disorder that affects all areas of the body. EDS has resulted in chronic muscle and joint pain, chronic dislocations, gastrointestinal problems, and various spine injuries now.
Five years ago, I was just living my life when I got my first compression fracture in my back. There was no big accident or incident that caused it.
I was simply living.
After that first injury, my body rapidly declined. I went from doctor-to-doctor begging for help. I couldn’t bare the daily, non-stop pain any longer. I’d lost all quality of life and was confined to my bed and heating pad, staring at the same four walls, day in and day out. I was miserable and suffering daily. My husband had to leave me lunchboxes of food next to my bed, because I could no longer make it to the kitchen to get myself food. Many times he held me up as I tried to make the 12 steps to the bathroom.
I was laying trapped everyday in a body bound to destroy me, yet with a mind that I knew could conquer the world.
Each doctor I saw had similar thoughts, there’s no cure and, unfortunately, I’ll only continue to get worse, never better. Doctors say I’ll inevitably end up wheel chair bound thanks to my EDS, and the harsh reality is— I should’ve gotten a chair at least a year ago, so I could have gotten out, but I wasn't ready.
Those were the doctors that actually gave me the time of day. The majority of them immediately dismissed me as nothing more than a drug seeker. In March 2017 I hit my lowest point. I was done. I couldn't live with so much pain. I was on 11 different medications and not one helped the constant pain. The darkest place I’ve ever been was within myself, and I was so afraid of what I was capable of. I was honest and told my husband and those in the medical community, though they would just up my antidepressants and continue to dismiss my physical pain.
The hardest thing I have ever done was to live through the battle within of wanting nothing more than to die.
This was my reality for so long. I had no hope. The doctors had no hope. And I was done. I survived the war within and made it out to the other side, only to find out all along there was hope out there for me to have less pain. Legal cannabis.
Back to January 2018. When I first went to the dispensary, I couldn't believe my eyes. First, wow legal cannabis in an actual store? Second, I don’t need to commit a crime for pain relief? Back in Wisconsin, did I commit crimes? "I sure did". I used low-grade cannabis to help take the edge off my pain and survive, so of course I wanted to get some in Las Vegas to see what legal cannabis could do for my body.
I remember my thoughts on the way to the dispensary. My body was screaming and all I kept thinking is how the heck am I going to survive a three day vacation, get married, and somehow be able to be out of bed and walking. I was praying the cannabis would help my pain, at least a little bit. The budtender was very knowledgeable and sent me out with some edibles and pre rolls. I immediately ate some candy and lit my joint. After I smoked the whole gram, we were walking back towards our hotel and I froze.
I felt less pain!
It was about a 5/6 and I had completely forgotten what it felt like to feel below an 8 daily. It was like a wave crashed into me and took so much pain and suffering with it. I broke down and cried. I never thought that was possible for me again. I was even in therapy to accept I would never get better and there I was in Las Vegas, using legal cannabis, with less pain! As my tears fell, I couldn't yet process what was happening.
I remember wondering if this was my end? Is this how it feels when your body is about to quit? My husband simply grabbed my face, looked me in the eyes, and said, "We will move here!" At the time I thought there was no way we could actually move, though. He also called my mom and said, "We're moving to Vegas! Sarah has less pain. You in?" As the trip continued I used more cannabis and was able to get to a 2 in pain, which was a miracle that was never suppose to be possible. I walked more than I had in years and was celebrating the fact that I could actually have less pain and a higher quality of life! I felt alive again! I was no longer trapped. Cannabis freed me.
When our trip came to an end and we had to return to Wisconsin, I cried. I tried to conceal my feelings, but I knew that I was returning to suffering and agony that no longer had to be. It was torturous knowing there is an option yet I was forced to suffer, but at least there was hope finally. One day, maybe I could feel better.
Plus, my husband was set in his decision. He was going to get our life back and some how, some way, move us to Las Vegas. I didn’t see how, and truly, I never thought we could make it work. We sold everything we could, donated what we couldn't bring, saved every penny, and as of August 2018, we are Nevada residents! Despite all my fear, we did it.
I am a medical refugee. My family and myself had to leave everything for a chance for me to have a better life. Each day that I am out of bed, sitting in my front room, laughing with my family is a miracle. The medical community said this wasn’t possible. My husband and I even had our first date in ages because I can finally get out of the house without costing me days of agony. I can handle car rides without wincing with every bump. I can play cribbage with my family. And I can get a hug without causing tremendous pain in my back.
Most importantly, I have hope.
I know that cannabis and the dry climate in Nevada will allow me to live my best possible life. I have less pain and intend on strengthening now that I can bear to do daily movement.
Cannabis is giving me my life, my smile, and my family back. Without relocating, I know this winter we would have to get a wheel chair and move to a one story, but instead, we saved, uprooted our lives, and here I am. Still walking, standing, and fighting. My husband is getting his wife back, my mother is getting her daughter back, and I am getting my life back. This move has been difficult. We have hit so many roadblocks along the way and continue to three months in. But I can tell you this— the move was worth it.