Alina Maldonado Montes de Oca | Epilepsy and Cerebral Palsy
Mexico authorized the legal import of non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) oil on February 1, 2016, after tireless work by families and local organizations. An eight year old girl named Alina and her family were the first to receive an authorization to legally bring cannabis products to Mexico. This is her story.
“How could this happen? Why us?”
These were the questions Abelardo Maldonado would ask God after his daughter Alina began having seizures in her infancy. He and his wife Lucely didn’t know how to handle Alina’s medical issues, but they had to come to grips with the fact that it would be a struggle for Alina to survive.
When Alina was born on October 30, 2004, she suffered a bout of hypoxia, a deficiency of oxygen to a certain part of the body. In Alina’s case the hypoxia affected her brain, slowing her development enough to cause intractable epilepsy and infantile cerebral palsy.
On any given day she suffers between 25 and 40 small seizures with grand mal (severe) seizures striking two or more times a week. They take a considerable toll on her body as she trembles, gets sick to her stomach, and recedes in upon herself mentally.
The seizures also have an impact on Lucely, Abelardo, and her sister Maria Jose: standing witness to Alina’s physical deterioration is heartbreaking for them. Despite many failed treatments, the family never gave up hope that they would eventually find something to help Alina. Every step of the way they stood by her and kept up with her costly medicines, treatments, and hospital visits.
Since her diagnosis, Alina’s family has tried over 14 traditional medications to treat her condition. Alina has experienced everything but relief before turning to cannabis.
The initial anticonvulsants she took for her epilepsy brought on a case of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. Alina broke out with cold sores, blisters, and her tongue and gums swelled so badly that her teeth were not visible. The cocktail of drugs prescribed by her doctors gave her severe gastritis and liver damage as well.
Whenever these issues arise, Alina and her family have to drive their small sedan over dangerous mountain roads to visit a specialist in the Port of Veracruz. It’s a four hour round trip from their home in San Andres Tuxtla. This way of living has drained the entire family physically, emotionally, and financially.
Alina, Lucely, Abelardo, and Maria Jose aren’t ones to give up easily, and after hearing about how a young girl in Colorado found success controlling seizures with cannabidiol (CBD) they realized deliverance was upon them. If CBD helped this little girl, maybe it would work for Alina. First, they would have to convince Mexican officials to change decades of entrenched legislation that prohibited cannabis, including non-psychoactive CBD.
As they worked to accomplish this, Alina’s family came across the story of another young girl in Mexico, Grace Elizalde, suffering from a similar disease. Grace’s family, who created the Por Grace Por Todos Foundation, managed to get authorization to import CBD products into Mexico for her seizures.
The authorities tried to handle Grace’s case as if it were a singular occurrence, but the reality is that there are thousands of other families in Mexico steeped in similar situations. That’s one of the reasons the #PorGrace movement expanded to #PorTodos (For Everyone): nobody should be denied cannabis if it can safely help them.
Abelardo spent months working to show Mexico’s health administration, known as COFEPRIS, that more than just one family needed access to CBD. It was a grueling, uphill climb. His hard work and persistence paid off when COFEPRIS issued him the first permit in Mexico’s history to legally import CBD oil on February 1, 2016.
With authorization permit in hand, Alina’s family can now legally import CBD hemp oil into Mexico for the first time in the country’s history. They have accomplished the near-impossible, changing Mexico and Alina forever.
There’s no denying that this is a historic moment for Alina and her family, and it also extends beyond them to all of Mexico, “Por Todos.” In accordance with the ruling, anyone in Mexico can now import legal cannabidiol (CBD) products into the country with valid import authorization. Abelardo says that this gives Alina’s life meaning because she’s helped pave the way for other people to secure much needed access to CBD.
We’re pleased to report that since beginning her regimen of CBD hemp oil, Alina has not had a grand mal seizure and her minor seizures have been significantly less frequent. Her parents also report that she now experiences better sleep, and is more responsive to family members.
For Mexican citizens, this signifies a reaffirmation of COFEPRIS’ commitment to the health of the nation and providing flexible access for citizens seeking alternative healthcare treatments. For Alina and her family, this signifies the beginning of a new life, one where she can claim a sense of normalcy in her day to day for the first time ever – that’s something to celebrate.
That being said, the country must make significant changes in order to provide effective cannabis access for it’s people. With Mexico’s average household income at $4,910, less than a tenth of that in the United States, imported cannabis is financially out of reach of most of Mexico’s population. Mexico does offer universal healthcare, so covering cannabis under the system is one solution to overcome the cost burden for families. Additionally, requiring a specific import authorization as well as a prescription, presents a significant challenge to families.
Considering that non-psychoactive cannabis products have a well established safety profile and no side effects, patients would benefit greatly from a simplified process to get these products.
Overall, it’s encouraging to see progress in the country, but we hope this is the first step of a full effort to make medicinal cannabis a legitimate part of Mexico’s health policy.