Healthcare news

Sophia Gibson is now breathing on her own

Sophia Gibson at home in Newtownards with mum Danielle. The Belfast trust has confirmed it has applied to an expert doctor-led panel to access medicinal cannabis for the little girl. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Rebecca Black, Press Association

The condition of a young girl awaiting a licence to be treated with medicinal cannabis oil has improved.

Sophia Gibson, from Newtownards in Co Down, was rushed to hospital yesterday after suffering a seizure. The seven-year-old suffers from a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.

Her parents, Darren Gibson and Danielle Davis, say the medication relieves their daughter's condition. Ms Davis said Sophia was placed in a drug-induced coma yesterday.

This morning, she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that her daughter's condition had improved overnight.

"She was admitted to intensive care, which is where we still are at the minute," she said.

"Sophia is off the ventilator and has been breathing on her own, which is a godsend.

"It's really just up to Sophia when she wakes up a wee bit more and see how the medications have worn off, and hopefully no more life-threatening seizures, because if that happens again, she will get ventilated again.

"This is my baby at the end of the day, to stand there feeling hopeless and helpless, just hoping that she pulls through.

"I was heartbroken, absolutely devastated."

Sophia's family have applied for a licence for her to be treated with cannabis oil in Northern Ireland.

Previously she was treated with the medication when her family took her to the Netherlands.

Ms Davis has urged the Home Office and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to work to ensure Sophia gets her medication as quickly as possible.

"We keep reiterating - Sophia does not have time," she said.

"We have complied and followed everything they have asked for, went down the proper protocols, followed the procedures to a T, and this is what has happened."

She said she believes that if Sophia was being treated with medicinal cannabis oil, her seizure would have been much less severe.

"As a mother I just feel so horrible because I know there is something out there that can help Sophia, and if I was to bring it into this country, I am classed as a criminal," she said.

"This cannot keep happening.

"It will come to the day where I am visiting a headstone and not a hospital, and I pray to God that doesn't happen."

The Home Office has confirmed it has received two applications for Sophia, which the panel has agreed to consider as one.

Recommendations from the panel are given to the Department of Health Northern Ireland to consider as licensing decisions are devolved.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We completely sympathise with the families who have been facing desperate situations as they try to find treatment.

"That is why the government has taken action, creating an expert panel to review individual medicinal cannabis licence applications.

"The Home Office does not comment on individual applications submitted to the expert panel of clinicians.

"In Northern Ireland, licensing decisions are devolved and any recommendations on licence applications made by the expert panel would be considered by the Department of Health Northern Ireland."

Last week, Billy Caldwell from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, was granted a licence to be treated with medicinal cannabis.

He suffers from a severe form of epilepsy. His mother Charlotte says the medication helps to control his seizures.

The use of medicinal cannabis is currently strictly limited in the UK.

However that is currently under review by the Home Office.

But Home Secretary Sajid Javid has stressed the drug would remain banned for recreational use.

Seven-year-old Sophia Gibson, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy. Picture by Hugh Russell.

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