After five brain surgeries, countless pills and 24 paramedic encounters, Tim Dagiau, a senior journalism major, could not get a handle on his seizures.
Diagnosed with epilepsy at age 10, Dagiau was constantly looking for a way out, a way to be seizure free.
Experiencing up to eight seizures a day, he felt like his whole world had collapsed. Until one day, during the summer of his junior year of high school, when Dagiau tried something new, something controversial.
At first, it was a onetime thing. It was a leisurely activity that many people participated in, but soon enough Dagiau found out that it was much more to him.
After inhaling his first hit of cannabis, his seemingly constant seizures disappeared for the first time in eight years.
It would take him a few more years to experience that kind of freedom again.
Dagiau kept remembering the void the blackouts his seizures had caused, and he decided to focus his interest on a state that had legalized the use of medicinal marijuana in hopes that becoming a patient would help his convulsions.
After attending Marquette University in Milwaukee for a year, Dagiau came to Colorado in the fall of 2007 with CSU in his sights.
â€œI moved here having 20 seizures a day, not knowing anyone,â€ Dagiau said.
Since his diagnosis, Dagiau has had a total of roughly 2,000 seizures with hundreds of seizures a year. Since moving to Colorado, his cannabis treatment has reduced that number to about 15 seizures a year.
If he does not keep medicated, Dagiau said he would seize between two or three days.
Pam Flemming, co-owner of EnerChi Healing Center in Fort Collins, has been Dagiauâ€™s caretaker since his arrival in Colorado. She said that the center has a few epileptic patients who have had successful treatment plans with cannabis.
â€œLook at his history; heâ€™s never had any relief, physical or psychological. Once he started using cannabis as medication, he went 93 days without a seizure. He finally got his relief,â€ Flemming said.
Carl Bazil, a neurologist at the New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia Universityâ€™s teaching hospital in uptown Manhattan, disagreed, saying that Timâ€™s results are anything but typical.
After he treated Dagiau for 12 years, Bazil said that many people with similar epilepsy have tried marijuana without success.
â€œThe problem is that there are no good scientific studies of epilepsy and marijuana use. Even if effective, it is unclear what component in marijuana works â€“â€“ there are several, and there is no way to regulate a dose,â€ Bazil said in an e-mail.
Timâ€™s father, Gary Dagiau, supports Timâ€™s decision to be treated with cannabis because he knows that it has been the only thing to work successfully.
â€œWe went through all different kinds of medications and therapy. Weâ€™ve exhausted plans A, B and C, and now weâ€™re on G and H. What else do we do? We said go for it,â€ Gary Dagiau said.
Tim Dagiau speaks out about his positive experiences with medical marijuana because he feels that a few bad apples have spoiled it for the rest.
â€œIâ€™m so sick of people looking at me and medical marijuana and seeing me as a stoner. I honestly want to make a difference, change seems to have spiraled down the wrong path,â€ Dagiau said.
As president of Off-Campus Life, president of the Student Disabilities Office and vice president of Student Legal Services, Dagiau is smashing that stereotype.
â€œI try to be as productive as possible. Iâ€™ve only missed two classes in three semesters, so donâ€™t tell me that I miss class and am failing assignments,â€ Dagiau said.
Although Dagiau has no opinion on whether or not marijuana should be legalized, he strongly supports medical marijuana.
â€œMedical marijuana was once this special privilege. Itâ€™s lost that, and I intend to convince people that, to some, it still is special,â€ he said.
Throughout all his experiences, Dagiau remains strong.
â€œI feel like itâ€™s like FDRâ€™s polio â€“â€“ his biggest weakness but also his greatest strength,â€ Dagiau said. â€œI want to make a difference, and Iâ€™m going to make a difference.â€
Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.