What­ever it takes:

Time key fac­tor in fam­ily’s decision to move to Colorado for med­i­cal mar­i­juana

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­news.com

It may be their last re­sort, but the Hop­kins fam­ily is mak­ing a big move with full hopes they will find sanc­tum for one of their daugh­ters in Colorado’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana. Still, they’ll be pack­ing their fam­ily mi­nus one.

Kelli and Mike Hop­kins, Cov­ing­ton res­i­dents and par­ents to three girls, two of whom are spe­cial needs with se­vere seizure dis­or­ders, are hop­ing to move to Colorado in mid-Oc­to­ber, where they will have ac­cess to the state’s le­gal med­i­cal mar­i­juana. Their youngest child, Abe, died in July at the age of six after one of the dozens of seizures he had ev­ery day.

They de­cided they can­not wait for Ge­or­gia law­mak­ers to go back into leg­isla­tive ses­sion and po­ten­tially pass its own med­i­cal mar­i­juana bill, which would al­low se­lec­tive use of an orally ad­min­is­tered cannabis oil pill low in tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol (THC), the com­po­nent that makes you high, and high in cannabid­iol (CBD), the med­i­cal com­po­nent.

They don’t know if HB 885 will pass next year, and they don’t know if Michala, 16, who also has mul­ti­ple seizures a day and who lost a leg to can­cer when she was 14 months old, has a lot or a lit­tle time left. Be­fore, ev­ery day was just seizure after seizure, but after Abe passed ev­ery one Michala pulls through grants one more day.

“Find­ing a place to live that works for our fam­ily as far as min­i­mal or no steps, sin­gle-story, no pre­vi­ous pets in the home be­cause of res­pi­ra­tory is­sues and al­ler­gies has been a chal­lenge, even with many peo­ple help­ing us search,” Kelli Hop­kins said.

The whole fam­ily will move to Colorado, but Mike Hop­kins will have to fly back to Ge­or­gia weekly to con­tinue his job to support the fam­ily, re­turn­ing on week­ends to help Kelli take care of their chil­dren.

Kelli Hop­kins said they will in­cur mov­ing costs and will have to pay monthly hous­ing costs and util­i­ties for two prop­er­ties. They will have ad­di­tional med­i­cal bills while in Colorado from out-of-net­work doc­tors, ap­point­ments and med­i­ca­tions. Travel costs will pile up with Mike Hop­kins’ weekly flights.

They ap­plied to the Jour­ney of Hope Fund, which is a foun­da­tion started by Rep. Allen Peake, who co-wrote HB 885, to help Ge­or­gia fam­i­lies re­lo­cate to Colorado to get med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

She said if it helps Michala, even in the slight­est, it will all be worth it.

“Wait­ing is not an op­tion”

“We don’t ex­pect 100 per­cent support from ev­ery- one,” she said on her blog that de­scribes her and her fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ences and fights to spread aware­ness of the fight for med­i­cal mar­i­juana in Ge­or­gia. “We know that some peo­ple will never un­der­stand it. We wel­come ques­tions to bet­ter un­der­stand the cannabis oil or why we can­not get it legally in Ge­or­gia, but please do not tear us down or be neg­a­tive about us do­ing what we feel led to do.

“This is not a knee jerk re­sponse that took place after Abe died. We are not en­ter­ing into this with­out a great deal of prayer. We held onto hope that Ge­or­gia would do the right thing in 2014. When it didn’t pass, we started the process to get Michala and Abe into the Epid­i­olex study. The one that Ge­or­gia State Rep. Sharon Cooper said we would be able to do at Chil­dren’s Health­care of At­lanta be­fore the end of the year. Yes, she told it to our faces while we were at the cap­i­tal wait­ing to get all three of our chil­dren in wheel­chairs on the el­e­va­tor.

“It’s too late for Abe, and it doesn’t look like Michala is go­ing to be able to get into it. Wait­ing is not an op­tion at this point.”

They will not only be loaded with added ex­penses. Hop­kins said they are deal­ing with the added stress of hav­ing the fam­ily apart when Mike is at work and “leav­ing our support sys­tem, church fam­ily, our friends and the com­forts of a town where we were born and raised.”

The plan is to give Michala three months on med­i­cal mar­i­juana in Colorado and see how she re­sponds. The fam­ily at­tended a con­fer­ence in Chicago the week­end be­fore Abe died and heard from par­ents who saw the medicine re­duce their chil­dren’s seizures by at least half.

“If there is no im­prove­ment at all after three months, we will move back home,” Hop­kins said. “We are ex­pect­ing a great re­sponse, so then we will stay as long as it takes. Hope­fully that will be a rea­son­able amount of time if Ge­or­gia passes the med­i­cal mar­i­juana bill.”

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