Cannabis compound found to help child with seizures

Misty Harlan and Novalee Perez
Misty Harlan’s and her daughter Novalee Perez, 3, of La Crescenta, in their home on Monday, December 22, 2014. Novalee was born with a rare disease that at 6-months developed into frequent and potentially severe seizures, sometimes as often as 100 times a day. In October, when Novalee was three-and-a-half years old, Misty was approved to administer CBD, a derivative of medical marijuana, that has nearly brought the seizures under control to where they can be considered infrequent. According to Misty, she saw positive changes within 24-hours of giving her the medication.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Misty Harlan’s 3-year-old daughter, Novalee Perez, was born with a disorder where she had seizures, up to 100 a day. Now, Harlan has found a medication that has drastically reduced the number of seizures her daughter must endure, leading to a better life for her.

The only problem is that the treatment, cannabidiol or CBD, a compound found in cannabis, is expensive, said Harlan, a La Crescenta resident.

Novalee, who will turn 4 in February, suffers from lissencephaly, microcephaly, cortical vision impairment and chronic seizures, according to her mother. In October, she began taking CBD two to three times a day via a tube and, as a result, her seizures dropped to about 20 to 30 a day and she has become noticeably happier.

“She went from catatonic to enthusiastic and charismatic,” Harlan said of her daughter. “She’ll look around, she’ll respond to her name… If you put her favorite toys in front of her, she’ll smile and coo at them. Before, her eyes used to be glazed over.”


Dr. Bonni Goldstein, who was a pediatrician for 15 years and has worked with Novalee, said CBD has shown in research to help reduce seizures and it does so without triggering the psycho-activity that THC does.

In other words, it doesn’t get a person high, said Goldstein, who is medical director for Canna Centers, with five offices in California.

Novalee currently takes additional medications for her seizures, but they come with side effects, so working them out of the equation is another part of the goal to improve her quality of life.

“She’s still on five of her medications. We’ve been able to lower the dosage,” Harlan said. “Our goal is to get her off three of the medications.”


Instead of throwing a birthday party for Novalee, Harlan is organizing a fundraiser slated to be held from 6 to 10 p.m. on Feb. 7 at the Elks Lodge in Tujunga, 10137 Commerce Ave.

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