Trailblazing A Treatment: How CBD Oil Changed More Than One Girl's Life

Years before medical marijuana was legal in Oklahoma, parents of children with a severe seizure condition called Dravet syndrome lobbied the legislature to approve a derivative of the marijuana plant called CBD oil.

Wednesday, July 19th 2023, 10:25 pm



Years before medical marijuana was legal in Oklahoma, parents of children with a severe seizure condition called Dravet syndrome lobbied the legislature to approve a derivative of the marijuana plant called CBD oil.

That’s when we first met 10-year-old Katie. She was having a seizure a week, she was essentially non-verbal, in a wheelchair, and on six medications including opioids and one that could have sent her into liver failure at any time.

“They were destroying her organs,” recalls her mother, Kelli Dodson.

Her family was embarking on a fight to convince the Oklahoma legislature to let her, and other kids like her, take CBD oil, a non-psychoactive derivative of the cannabis plant.

“It was a dogfight. It was very contentious,” said Katie's uncle Jon Echols. He was a freshman state representative and conservative republican when he took up a cause that his consultants and advisors called political suicide.

“To see my brother and sister who went through everything to help her, tried everything there was to do,” said Echols as he teared up. “And to be in a position to be able to do something to help her and help so many other kids that needed this help, it was worth the risk.” 

Katie's personal story and the testimony of doctors convinced lawmakers to pass the bill. 

In April of 2015, Governor Fallin personally called Katie's mom and delivered the news they had been praying for.

“I have great news for you,” Governor Fallin told Katie’s mom at the time. “I wanted to let you know I have signed the Katie and Camen Bill.”

Katie's parents immediately ordered the oil and Echols was the one to give the first dose.

Nine years later Katie is out of her wheelchair. She graduated high school and works at her school store. She flirts, smiles, and laughs. Family vacations and beach trips are now possible.

“The last few years have been just amazing for us and for Katie and our whole family,” says Katie’s dad Jay Dodson.

The seizures that once dominated their whole lives have now decreased to maybe twice a year.

“I don't think she's had one this entire year,” said Kelli.

Most importantly, Katie has noticed a difference in herself.

“I used to have all these thoughts in my head but instead of keeping them in there I get to actually say what I want,” she told us.

“The changes were almost immediate with her cognitive function the very next day we started seeing changes,” said Kellie.

The gamble, it seems, paid off.

The law passed here in Oklahoma legalizing the CBD oil was the first of its kind in the country. States across the nation followed. According to Katie's doctor, almost all the kids in the country with Dravet's syndrome now have tried it to help with their seizures. Doctors said not all patients will see the success that Katie has, but it does give them another option. 

Now there's an FDA approved version called Epidiolex. According to the agency, it was the first approved drug derived from marijuana and the first approved for patients with Dravet syndrome.

The oil is one of just three medications Katie is currently taking. She's no longer on the opioids and dangerous drugs that were destroying her body. Convincing her parents that the oil saved her life. 

“I'm just very proud of the young woman she's developed into and I’m just excited about her future,” said Jay.

CBD oil changed the game for Katie and thousands of kids like her.

“We were able to make a nationwide change that all started with Katie,” said Echoles.

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