Throughout the course of this project, I will be interviewing a number of people from different backgrounds and different influences in the world of medical cannabis. For my first interview, I got to sit down with my close friend Becca Voltmer. Becca was diagnosed with Myocarditis in March of 2014, a virus that causes inflammation and attacks the healthy tissue of the heart. She explained it to me as a cold that contained the same DNA coding as her heart, causing her immune system to attack itself. We talked for awhile about her story of her heart transplant and how she uses CBD now to help strengthen her body and combat organ rejection.

This interview was very emotionally heavy. Hearing a close friend of yours describe how they nearly died is never easy. My mother also joined in on this interview as she had just recently recovered from heart failure and wanted to learn as much as she could. After Becca was diagnosed, she saw a number of doctors and was eventually later told that she was suffering from heart failure. After four months on the waitlist, Becca went into to the hospital to undergo a full heart transplant, she was only 17 years old at the time. Because of her age, her battle is not yet over. Within the next 10-15 years she may need to undergo yet another transplant depending on lifestyle choices. At any given moment however, Becca can begin the process of rejection, even if she stays true to her medicine and makes the correct healthy choices

Becca has experienced rejection once, which she described as an acute rejection. There are three levels of rejections: 0, which is minimal rejection and is not too much of a scare, 2, which is broken down into a 1-10 scale of seriousness of rejection, with 2:10 being the most severe, leading to full rejection otherwise known as level 3 of rejection which means you are in need of a new heart in Becca’s case. When she was admitted to the hospital during her rejection, she was on level 2:5, meaning it was not the worst case scenario, but she did have to stay in the hospital for a week to undergo treatment with steroids.This rejection was caused by her missing some of her medication for a couple days. She has described to me all the medications she takes on a daily basis, names of medicine I would not be able to spell on here in the slightest. Along with her meds, she also took CBD (cannabidiol) in the form of a spray that you spray into your mouth. She truly believes that this helped her during a time when she was not as routine with her medication. Becca explained to me that when you are transplanted, there are T-cells that combat the antibodies that cause rejection. CBD creates more T-cells as well as strengthens the current T-cells in your body. Becca also suffered from a number of panic attacks, as well as depression from her situation and she used CBD to cope with.

“Cannabinoids have emerged as powerful drug candidates for the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases due to their immunosuppressive properties.” (Nagarkatti, Amcaoglu Rieder, Hegde,Kannada,Nagarkatti). A published article titled “Do Cannabinoids have a therapeutic role in transplantation?” reviews the chemical properties of CBD and its use in transplantation. Although there has yet to be full out studies on its use in patients due to legal reasons, clinical data on cannabinoids as anti-inflammatory agents exists within autoimmune disease settings( Nagarkatti, et al.). This is in reference to the T-cells mentioned earlier, as cannabinoids have been linked to increased T-cell activity and play a significant role in the induction of long-term tolerance after transplantation.

Today Becca works with the Gift of Life donor program, helping with their annual walk for organ donation awareness. Her team, called Beats for Becca, consists of her family and close friends and they participate in the 5K walk as well as talk to other teams who share their own personal stories of organ transplants. The Gift of Life Donor program helps people who live in different areas of the country with housing as they wait for a organ transplant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Becca’s story was a powerful one and I feel it brought us closer. Please stay updated with my blog as I will be interviewing more people and begin posting my research with CBD and other medical properties of Marijuana on this forum. Thank you!

Nagarkatti, M., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V., Kanada, S., & Nagarkatti, P. (2010). Do Cannabinoids have a therapeutic role in transplantation? Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 31(8), 345–350.

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