Living Proof

29-year-old Kaitlin Mallary suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in 2013. She shares the story of her recovery and how medical cannabis has helped her manage the symptoms of her injury.

I don’t remember anything about 2013, especially the day of the accident. Everything I know about what happened to me, my family or my doctors told me. My boyfriend, our three-year-old daughter, and I were driving to work that morning.

As we pulled onto the highway, our car was hit by a heavy-duty Ford F-250 truck with a trailer. My boyfriend died instantly. I was severely injured and had to be cut from the car. I was airlifted to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma unit and my daughter was airlifted to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

When I arrived at Shock Trauma, I had a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 3 out of 15, which means I was deeply unconscious and my chances of survival were slim to none and if I did survive, I’d be in a vegetative state. I had a severe traumatic brain injury, shattered pelvis, and fractured hyoid and styloid bones in my neck. The doctors told my mother to start planning my funeral. I was in a coma for three weeks. On the day I was scheduled for a tracheotomy to place a more permanent breathing tube, I came out of the coma.

After some more time in the hospital, I was transferred to Kernan Hospital (University of Maryland Rehab & Ortho Institute) for rehabilitation. I had to relearn how to walk and talk. The painkillers I was on put me in a fog, which made everything harder. As a result of the crash and my injuries, I now live with chronic pain, PTSD, severe anxiety and bipolar depression, memory problems, sleep issues, and double vision. I can’t go back to work as a dental assistant, a job I really loved, because I’ve been deemed disabled. I was on medication for anxiety and depression, which made me feel like I wasn’t myself and made it harder to take care of my daughter.

I didn’t want to keep feeling and living this way, so I took it upon myself to research medical cannabis and how to get registered to be able to access it. In 2015, I was one of the first people to be pre-approved for registration in Maryland. In the beginning, there was no dispensary near me, so I had to travel to Washington, D.C. to get it, which was time-consuming and very stressful with my anxiety. The D.C. dispensaries didn’t really provide any guidance on choosing the best strain of cannabis for my conditions, so it was hit or miss. Some of the ones I tried actually made my anxiety worse.

When a great dispensary, Greenpoint Wellness, opened near me, it was a godsend. Working with the staff at my local dispensary, I found a strain that helps treat the specific symptoms I’m living. It was extremely helpful to be able to talk to a medical cannabis professional and explain my symptoms and conditions so that I got the right strain.

I no longer have mood swings and don’t need to take the mood stabilizer that made me feel foggy. I’m productive and feel so much less stressed than I did before I started medicating. I’m living proof that medical cannabis works.

What I’m working on now is helping others who could benefit from medical cannabis find the answers and information that I had to research and find on my own. I hate the stigma that many people associate with medical cannabis, but I believe that stigma comes from lack of understanding and education. I’m a very vocal advocate for medical cannabis and take every chance to talk to people about it and how it’s helped me and many, many other people. In fact, when I first started medicating, my father was against it. But by talking with him and taking the time to explain how it helps me medically, he’s come around. It’s those one-on-one conversations that will change minds and help more people take advantage of what medical cannabis can offer.

Editor’s Note: This CBMD patient story has been written and submitted by a cannabis patient. CBMD has been released from any and all claims as to its content and is not responsible for any medical and/or clinical use claims.