• Vera Twomey, Irish mother of epileptic daughter, marched 260km earlier this year to demand Irish Government allows her daughter access to THC
  • Ava Berry, 7, suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, which had been giving the young girl thousands of seizures a year
  • Since being given CBD, the girl’s condition markedly improved, but Vera, believes that THC is necessary to help the worst of the remaining seizures

In March, we reported on the heroic actions of Vera Twomey, an Irish mother who was willing to do anything to get her epileptic daughter access to medicinal cannabis in March.

Ava Berry, Vera’s seven-year-old daughter, suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Ava’s condition had seen improvement once her mother started giving her CBD oil. The young girl, however, also needs access to THC, as several prominent studies have shown the cannabinoid to be beneficial in treating epilepsy.

“THC is there for people to be able to use it for their families all over Europe. I wanted to bring the medication back but I do not want to be charged as a criminal.” – Vera Twomey

The fiercely determined mother of three walked nearly 260km from Cork down to Dublin to meet with Simon Harris, the Irish Minister for Health, to demand that he grants the most vulnerable and desperate Irish patients the basic decency of allowing them to choose their own medicine.

Unfortunately for Ava and Vera, not to mention the countless medicinal cannabis patients in Ireland, the Health Minister refused Vera’s very reasonable demands, instead of Mr. Harris claiming that it was not within his power “to provide medicinal cannabis” in the immediate future.

Vera, being the fighter that she is, has refused to take this setback lying down. Here’s what she’s been up to since we last spoke to her:

Campaigning

Perhaps the most inspiring part of Vera’s story is her resilience. Despite being neglected by the man who is supposed to ensure her daughter has access to the best medicine available, Vera has not taken no for an answer.

No progress has been made with Ava’s case. Vera even received an email from the Irish Government telling her that there would be no point in meeting with Simon Harris again, as, according to them “he’s done everything that he can do.”

Despite this, Vera has refused to give up on her daughter. Ask yourself this: if your child was dying, and you knew there was potentially a way to save her, would you just sit there and let them die? Vera profoundly answered this with resounding NO.

Since her gruelling 260km walk, which left her temporarily wheelchair-bound, Vera has continued her public activism, attending various rallies promoting medicinal cannabis:

Vera’s activism has also been making the rounds on social media, with the mother regularly making impassioned pleas on her Facebook to Simon Harris and to the Irish public:

Vera’s story has been so moving that it has won the hearts and minds of the ordinary Irish public. The support she has been shown on her various marches and on her Facebook page shows just how powerful one woman can be in fuelling a movement.

Irish band, Billy’s Cinema, even wrote a song about the Irish hero:

She has even started a petition to get the young girl access to the medicine she needs. Make sure you show your support for Ava and sign the petition in the hyperlink!

Amsterdam

What can you do if the people who represent you refuse to put your bests interests into their decision making? You take matters into your own hands.

Vera Twomey travelled to Barcelona last month, where she was able to legally procure THC for her daughter, after being prescribed the medicine in oil form by a Spanish medicinal cannabis clinic, the Kalapa Clinic.

Before returning back to Ireland, Vera openly declared on her Facebook that she’d be coming back to the country with the illegal medicine. Some claimed this as a “political stunt,” but was the mother left with much choice? Raising awareness for the benefit of your dying daughter should hardly be viewed as a political stunt.

Vera vehemently denied that this was a stunt, telling the Irish Examiner that her act of civil disobedience was not a stunt, as it should not be a criminal act to bring THC into the country: “If I came through the airport with the THC and left the airport, that is an illegal substance that I have on my person whether I was caught with it or whether I was not caught with it.

“THC is there for people to be able to use it for their families all over Europe. I wanted to bring the medication back but I do not want to be charged as a criminal.”

Vera could have kept the medicine a secret and would have been able to give the medicine to her daughter the same day, but that would bely who the Irish mother is at heart. If you could save your own child, or save countless suffering children, what would you choose?

By declaring to customs that she had cannabis oil containing THC, Vera made a statement: everyone who needs THC in Ireland should be able to have access to it. Vera stood up for every single desperate patient in Ireland who needs access to THC, representing the community-focus that the cannabis movement is based upon.

The only response that the Irish Government has offered is the following statement:

“I would like to state that I have provided a further update to Ms Vera Twomey tonight, following our most recent meeting on Thursday 23rd February and an email update on Tuesday 28th February, in which I informed her that the HSE has advised me that her consultant will be in touch to arrange a further consultation for her daughter, Ava. I also shared with her a statement by Dr Tony Holohan, the Department’s Chief Medical Officer, on the advice he has provided to me which stresses that the granting of a licence must come with the endorsement of a consultant who is familiar with and responsible for the care of the individual on whose behalf the application is being made.

(See: http://health.gov.ie/blog/press-release/advice-provided-to-the-minister-for-health-in-relation-to-the-use-of-cannabis-for-medical-reasons/)

I am extremely conscious of the long and arduous journey Vera and her family have made to arrive at the Dáil tomorrow and I have indicated my willingness to meet Vera and her husband Paul again tomorrow should they so wish but I have also honestly stated that it is not within my power to provide medicinal cannabis tomorrow. I believe the course of action is for this matter to be addressed with the medical professionals involved in Ava’s care. I remain fully committed to establishing an access programme for cannabis-based treatments in Ireland and, in that regard, I welcome the early consideration by the Oireachtas Health Committee of the recent HPRA report, following a request from me, which will now take place tomorrow and will hear from Department and HPRA officials.”

Future?

No one can be sure what the future holds for Vera and her daughter, other than the brave mother will campaign for her daughter till the day she dies. We need more heroes like Vera to stand up against unjust laws based on the denial of scientific evidence. We need more people who aren’t directly impacted by a disease or illness which can be helped with cannabis to stand up for their community. We are all in this together, just ask yourself: what would you do if this was your child?

References and further Reading