Health & Fitness

Moms Day Out at the Medical Marijuana Clinic

When my friend told me she was thinking of buying medical marijuana to give her some relief from her debilitating illness, I knew it was a fantastic idea.

She has a disease called hereditary angiodema. It’s a rare genetic condition that can make parts of her body swell uncontrollably. That includes her hands, feet, intestines, or airways. When her intestines swell, which has been happening quite a bit lately, it results in uncontrollable vomiting and excruciating abdominal pain. When her airways swell, which has happened, she has trouble breathing. If she were to have a more severe attack in her airways, she could stop breathing.

It’s a horrible disease, only 1 in 50,000 to 100,000 people have it, and it can knock her out for days. But she can’t be down for days. She has a business and two small children. The medicine she needs, she can’t get because her insurance company won’t approve it. She’s in a clinical study at UCLA, but she can’t get the drugs there unless she’s having an attack when the clinic is open a couple of days a week a few hours a day.

So, she has tried everything; a vegan, gluten-free diet, acupuncture, stress reduction. And it hasn’t worked. She’s been given steroids and other drugs, but the side effects are awful.

It had gotten to the point where she needed to do something, anything.

She asked around and eventually found a recommendation on Yelp for a doctor in Marina Del Rey. I asked if I could go with her to the appointment for both moral support and curiosity. I thought it  would be very clandestine. We’d walk through a back alley and into a dark  office where security guards would pat us down. After questioning we’d be taken back to a room where everyone was smoking pot.

And of course it was nothing like that. We went to see Dr. Allen Frankel in an office park in Marina Del Rey. No security guards, just a really nice young man sitting behind a desk.

We didn’t get to see Dr. Frankel, but we did see his partner who was a little trippy, but very informative. After my friend explained her symptoms he wrote her a recommendation and we were on our way.

We headed to the Farmacy to figure out what kind of medical marijuana would ease my friend’s pain and stop the uncontrollable vomiting.

Now, we were really nervous. The next stop couldn’t possibly be as delightful as Dr. Frankel’s office, where the receptionist let my friend pay whatever she “felt comfortable with.”

But, once again, not clandestine. The Farmacy in Venice is on Abbott Kinney and if I had just glanced at the shop I would have thought they sold homemade soap. It was about as dangerous as going into Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I even bought a sports drink powder for my marathon training.

My friend, however, did not buy a sports drink. After being issued a medical marijuana card and talking to the salesperson for quite some time (I wasn’t allowed to listen because I don’t have a medical marijuana card), she bought a few items. She is hoping they will help get her through her next HAE attack.

And I really hope they work, too. Being a mom is already exhausting, all encompassing, joyful, and heart breaking. I can’t imagine going through all of that and being sick at the same time. If a little cannabis helps her get through the day, and possibly saves her life, then I hope it’s always available to her.

And I hope it’s always legal

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6 comments

  1. Marisa 21 July, 2011 at 15:45 Reply

    Hi Yvonne,
    My sisters and I also suffer from hereditary angioedema. I have found that marijuana does help with my mild abdominal attacks and the nausea, and also to reduce stress, which can lessen attacks. I decided to do some research to see if other HAE patients have found the same to be true and stumbled upon your post. Surprisingly, I wasn’t able to find anything else on marijuana use with HAE patients!

    Anyway, I’m just curious to see if your friend found the marijuana helpful to ease or lessen the attacks? HAE is very difficult to live with, and I often wonder how my sisters and I will manage our disease when we become mothers. I hope your friend is doing well and that she has finally found something to help with her attacks!
    Thanks, Marisa

    • Yvonne Condes 21 July, 2011 at 20:08 Reply

      Thank you for reaching out, Marisa! I contacted my friend and hopefully you can connect with her.

  2. Amber 27 February, 2015 at 01:22 Reply

    Hi Yvonne! I also suffer from angioedema.ive tried everything that you can think of to relieve my symptoms, which occur on a day-to-day basis. I’ve really been wondering if medical marijuana would help me. As Marissa mentioned, there is not much research on the link between the miracle drug and this awful condition. I would to hear how your friend is doing, and if it is working of her!

  3. Kim 17 June, 2015 at 10:58 Reply

    I have recently been diagnosed with Hereditary Angioedema, I was wondering what strain is the best for this disease. Any help would be welcomed, going on 20 years I have been suffering and was just diagnosed, happy to finally have an answer but now have to learn to deal with the side effects of such a disease. Thanks all help welcome.

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