The picture on the left shows a boy, with severe epilepsy, on a normal day two years ago.
Having been pumped with pharmaceutical drugs since he was a baby, he suffered countless seizures, could only see lights, and was in a ‘vegetative state’.
The picture on the right shows that same boy today, while being treated with cannabis-derived CBD and THC oil, with practically no medication.
Now, eight-year-old Eddie Woodman ‘has the sparkle back in his eyes’ and his seizures have reduced dramatically. He giggles, loves swimming and squeals with delight when he’s pushed on a swing, when before he would barely flinch.
Mum Geraldine Woodman, 43, told Metro.co.uk how she has fought off social workers and gone against doctor’s advice to ‘do what is right’ for her son and said the stigma against cannabis is ‘ridiculous’.
Her comments come after it was announced earlier this week that two cannabis-based medicines had been approved on the NHS to treat certain types of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
Updated guidelines by Nice, the UK drugs advisory body, will now permit doctors to administer Epidyolex to children with two types of epilepsy. The drug contains CBD but not THC – the psychoactive element of the plant.
Sativex, a mouth spray containing both components, will be prescribed for muscle stiffness and spasms for patients with multiple sclerosis – but not for the severe pain that comes with the condition.
Although many have praised the move, some campaigners argue the new guidelines are not good enough, as many families will still be forced to pay thousands per year to fund treatments containing both CBD and THC elements.
In November 2018, the law was changed to allow specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis medicines but many have been reluctant to do so citing a lack of research.
End Our Pain, a campaign group fighting for the legalisation of medical cannabis for all, described the new guidelines as a ‘massive missed opportunity’.
Spokeswoman, Millie Hinton, said: ‘This restrictive guidance is condemning many patients to having to pay for life-transforming medicine privately, to go without or to consider accessing illegal and unregulated sources.’
Geraldine was one of those parents who did not welcome the move, as the drugs will not treat her son who has intractable epilepsy, meaning his seizures cannot be controlled with medication.
She said Eddie’s symptoms only reduce when he is given CBD oil containing the THC element – which has not been approved by Nice – and said the new guidelines are depriving thousands of Britons of a better quality of life.
Geraldine, from Driffield, East Yorkshire, said: ‘Why are we segregating people over a plant that works for a lot more types of epilepsy? And what about people with cancer?
‘It shouldn’t be about just two types of epilepsy, or a certain condition, or a certain group, or a certain age – it should be about everyone.
‘It is wrong what the government has done.’
Eddie was born 11 weeks premature and suffered a bleed on the brain but despite this he seemed to be developing normally.
A few months later, the stay-at-home mother noticed her son was crying a lot and ‘knew something wasn’t right’ but doctors dismissed it as acid reflux and prescribed Gaviscon.
At nine months, Eddie suffered a ‘huge seizure’ and was rushed to hospital, where medics diagnosed him with infantile spasms – an aggressive form of epilepsy.
Eddie was left severely brain damaged and unable to walk, talk, or eat unassisted.
‘Ever since that day, they kept giving him medication to knock him out because every time he’d open his eyes he’d have a seizure,’ said Geraldine.
‘Within 20 seconds of him waking up you would see him have a cluster of seizures for around an hour.’
By the age of six, Eddie was taking 60mg of drugs a day, causing him to be ‘absolutely zonked’ and mostly stared into space.
But the more medication that was introduced, came more side effects, so more drugs were prescribed to reduce them.
Geraldine was told one medication could ‘wreak havoc with his eyesight’ – he eventually lost peripheral vision and was only able to see light.
In early 2018, his seizures worsened. Eddie lost all enthusiasm for life and ‘would scream blue murder at school’.
When doctors suggested upping the young boy’s medication further, Geraldine had had enough and started to look for alternative therapies.
And within a few months of taking US-imported CBD-THC oil, Eddie began to see from a distance and even track people around the room, but most of all, his seizures reduced dramatically.
‘We can see it when we look in his eyes, they have that sparkle back. Now he makes a lot of noise, he’s a big talker, he’s calm in class, he does swimming and music,’ said Geraldine.
Bit by bit, his pharmaceutical medication was reduced and he has since dropped down to just 1mg, with doctors’ letters confirming the young boy’s dramatic improvement.
‘He takes a CBD-THC ratio but it is a small amount of THC, so it’s not enough to get him stoned,’ said Geraldine. ‘It’s not damaging him, he has no side effects at all.
‘It’s not a cure but it is giving him an alternative so he can have some quality of life instead of being on a pharmaceutical rollercoaster where he can’t function.’
But the mother-of-seven has faced many obstacles in her pursuit to help her son, after someone tipped off social services about her alternative methods.
After watching her for some months, the social worker no longer pays her visits and Geraldine thinks it’s down to ‘Steady Eddie’s’ new-found joy for life.
Geraldine continued: ‘There have been so many times I’ve felt like giving up. Then I look at him and think, what other chances have I got?
‘I can’t put him back in that vegetative state and sat there all high.’
Through tears, Geraldine explained how she trusted her instinct to prove others wrong and questioned what mother wouldn’t do the same for their child.
For now, she won’t give up her fight to treat Eddie her way and said the government should allow doctors to prescribe CBD oil and give adults the opportunity to self-medicate with cannabis.
Geraldine added: ‘If it works for someone, let them choose.’