Being a Cannabis Caregiver can mean many different things.
Some caregivers are growers, who carefully select and breed and cultivate personalized strains for their patients.
Other caregivers research and develop recipes for medications that are not only effective, but taste palatable or perhaps even with a gourmet flair.
There are also cannabis caregivers work in dispensaries or “collective gardens” in positions we refer to as “bud tenders” but perhaps are better described as pharmacists or better yet, farm-assists.
Being a responsible caretaker of a cannabis patient, no matter the role, involves research, and very active patient communication.
Many people have acted as my cannabis caregivers.
When my own edible education began, my friend Rick introduced me to “cannabutter” and showed me the process to extract cannabiniods into fat. He also helped me learn about dosages and strains that were helpful for my health conditions and how to grow.
My lessons included cloning as well as law enforcement officers tours of a legal garden.
The entire experience was quite eye-opening. This was in 2010.
In 2013, I had the opportunity to re-visit cannabis caretaking with Hillbilly Rick. This time, the tables were turned.
In the years between 2010 and 2013, I travelled the country learning what I could from patients and caregivers living in the trenches of psuedo-cannabis medical “legality” and some just illegally healing. I aquired knowledge about topicals and tinctures, about making cannacaps and eating more than just cannabutter.
I have a medical background. In my early twenties I worked as a back-office nurse before my disabilities necessitated me retraining outside of the medical field. My friend Rick was being quite honest when he confided in me that he knew I would be offended if he had asked anyone else to care for him after major intestinal surgery. I probably would have been.
Rick, as with all other patients whom I have provided care for, was recommended cannabis by his doctor. The cannabis preparations that I prepared for him were purchased at his local collective garden. He also received a small donation from his collective garden during his after-care.
I prepared with topicals and tinctures, capsules full of a sticky blackish green goo known as “RSO” for the man (Rick Simpson) who came up with the widest known method of extracting the concentrated cannabis oil. Also known as Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO) or Hash Oil; it is a substance highly concentrated in cannibinoids, and fairly easy to dose in capsules or a rice-grain portion eaten on top of a slice of banana or cracker.
Rick’s recovery from surgery was fairly uneventful, once he left the opioid pain relievers in the hospital. Out of the hospital only a couple of days, I accompanied him and his granddaughter to church.
Two years later, Rick is the healthiest I have ever seen him. Oh, did I mention, he has stage IV kidney cancer; a diagnosis he has lived with for over 20 years now? (To read more about Rick and my friendship, please read: My Best Friend).
Tables were turned once again, less than a year later, when my newlywed husband became my cannabis caregiver.
He already had partially assumed that role, when we began gardening together. You see, I married Floyd’s Farm-Assist.
As much as I thought knew, he had more to teach me about gardening and the cannabis plant in general. Keith had been around cannabis for most of his life. When he took on the moniker “Floyd’s Farm-Assist” it was because he had been helping others farm their cannabis for decades. He had also been researching the most effective strains for his own health conditions
On May 24th, I fell ten feet, backwards, suffering a compression fracture to my T-11. I broke my back.
After the doctors assessed that I was correct in not wanting any opioids to treat the incredibly intense back pain I was having, and I learned how to walk again in the four excruciating days in the hospital; i was discharged into Keith’s care.
The day after I came home, another caregiver delivered donated infused coconut oil and tincture. Keith carefully filled capsules full of coconut oil, and I took tincture by the tablespoon, and my pain was finally under control.
While being both a patient and a caregiver, I have learned many different aspects of using cannabis as a medication. I found that using infused coconut oil worked better than using butter. Then came the addition of lecithin to the recipe, enhancing the absorbability of the cannaibiniods in the human cannaibinoid receptors.
My back healed faster than my physicians thought possible.
Compression fractures, due to their nature, don’t heal completely. However, except for a need to understand my limits at times, I find that a year and 3 months after my fall, my health is very close to what it was before the fall.
This summer provided me two more opportunities to revisit post-surgical caannabis caregiving.
My husband Keith, had arthroscopic knee surgery on his meniscus and a cartilage band. Then my brother was inspired by Keith and desired to go through back surgery (a laminectomy) without any opioids.
Keith’s surgery was a fairly minor procedure. It was preformed in a out-patient surgery center. Afterwords he was sent home. Keith used many different cannabis preparations.
Knowing his sweet-tooth, and his disdain for pills (he had survived multiple pharmacological dependencies after several back surgeries, including one that left his leg paralyzed), I made him a variety of different high-protein but sweet granola bars.
They proved to be a bit too sweet, as well as a bit too highly medicated for his needs, so I soon cut them into multiple servings and dusted them with unsweetened cocoa, tempering the sweetness a bit.
Keith used a combination of full plant concentrate, inhaled and vaporized cured flowers & concentrates, tinctures and “RSO” as a topical on the incisions themselves. He also ate fresh and dried whole plant, including hemp seeds.
Keith’s recovery was extremely fast. Within two weeks he was feeling better than before the surgery. He had full range of motion plus some and was released for full physical therapy with a brace that prevented him from hyper-extending his weaker knee until the leg strengthened.
In August came my biggest challenge thus far as a cannabis caregiver. My only sibling, my baby brother, was inspired by Keith’s rapid surgical recovery and was impressed by the effect that cannabis had on his own pain; so he decided to go through his laminectomy without any opioid pain medication.
To avoid using opioids during the surgery, his physician used Ketamine. This caused him neuropathic hyper-sensitvity as well as memory loss after surgery.
I was at his bedside as soon as he was offered pain medication. Having made his choices clear pre-surgery, he became angered and frustrated when the nurses pushed him to change his mind about opioid medication. After some miscommunications were cleared up, Jason proceeded with his intended cannabis treatment.
It is against all hospital policies to bring in medication with which they are unfamiliar. From a medical standpoint, I understand this.
Jason made the decision the day after surgery, to transfer his care from the hospital to my personal care near the hospital. We spent several days in the shadow of the hospital, their resources available if he needed them, as he recovered from his back surgery.
Jason’s treatment included topical RSO on the incision, high-cbd cream in the surrounding tissues, capsules of RSO, infused coconut oil and lecithin, as well as vaporizing cannabis concentrates. Jason also had the opportunity to try a new transdermal patch that was offered at our collective garden (however, he did not find that the patch met his medication needs.)
At his two-week post-surgical check-up, Jason’s physician was extremely happy with his recovery and the look of the incision site. Although he was anxious to exercise more than just walk (for the second week of recovery, he had worked his way up to walking over a mile every day), she cautioned him to restrain himself from over-doing.
Feeling accomplished, I released him from my care. In spite of the title, I didn’t and don’t currently have a garden. My supplies are purchased or donated. I had run out of medication even for myself, I had none to give. Jason’s medication was purchased with the limited resources that he had, and those resources had been exhausted.
Three days later, I heard my baby brother describe pain as a “new definition of a level ’10′” … only a week after we had him down to a “1 or 2”.
This is the only reason I never wanted him to depend on cannabis.
His insurance would have paid for multiple medications to control the pain. His insurance company doesn’t care that those prescription drugs are addicting and harmful to his surgical recovery and his recovery status.
Jason remains resolved not to use opioids. In spite of medication shortages due to low financial resources, he is continuing to heal and amaze his physicians and his family. He remains in recovery.
Cannabis is not only an alternative to opioid pain medication, but a prefered treatment for many, even for post-surgical pain. If I didn’t realize that before this summer, the two men I love the most in the world have proved that fact to me this summer.