When native Tennessean Devin Arbuckle was 13 years old, he was involved in a horrific motor vehicle accident, one which tragically left him with lifelong nerve damage, muscle stiffness and constant, grinding pain. In 2002 he was at a bonfire with several friends, they were all drinking despite being underage by several years. His best friend’s older brother had thought it would be funny to let the kids get drunk, never expecting it to end tragically. Once everyone finally passed out drunk, Devin was left alone in the front seat of a 2002 GMC Sierra truck with the remainder of a half gallon of Jim Beam whiskey. He finished the bottle, then took the truck out for a drive. A few miles later, he was speeding down a back road when he hit a mailbox, over corrected the truck, and slammed the truck nose first into the ditch. The vehicle flipped three times, and he was thrown over 80 feet away from the truck.
When the sheriff arrived at the scene, he called for the life flight, Devin was foaming at the mouth and his muscles were “posturing” or stiffening up and convulsing. In the helicopter on the way to Vanderbilt medical center, he lost all vital signs and they had to resuscitate him. When he arrived at Vanderbilt he was wrongly identified as a buddy of his, one of the boys he’d been drinking with earlier that night. Upon their arrival, that boy’s parents informed the authorities that Devin was in fact, not their son….. that he was a friend of his instead. Finally, Devin’s family was notified that their child was hospitalized in critical condition. Devin spent the next four weeks in the trauma unit of Vanderbilt Medical Center hanging on by a thread at times. Once he was stable, and it was discovered that he was only 13 years old, he was moved to a children’s Hospital where he spent another two weeks, still in a coma. He woke up in blinding pain, with his entire left side drawn up and weak and extremely hard to move due to the dystonia. He was in shock after being told that he had been in a terrible car accident and had spent the last six weeks in a coma.
Learning that there was a good chance he might never walk again was especially terrifying for a teenager. He began intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy three times a day, every day for the next eight months. He gradually got stronger, fighting each moment and refusing to stay down. A lot of hard work and therapy followed for Devin. One particular problem that stayed with him was the spasticity/distonia in the left hemisphere, and even moreso in his left leg and foot. The accident was in 2002, and he’s since been in excruciating pain every time he stands upright. Pain medicine helps him some, but the only thing that really halts his screaming nerve pain is medical cannabis. The spasticity issues in his foot cause his toes to curl up under his foot when he stands, making it nearly impossible to walk.
Despite the agonizing pain it causes, he has stood and walked like that since the first day he came home from the hospital back in 2002, despite the paralysis. In 2010, Devin learned that using cannabis helped ease the spasticity in that foot, and it allowed him to walk faster and smoother. This has lessened both the constant grinding pain, and given him expanded mobility. Unfortunately, his choice to try cannabis medicine also brought him trouble as well. A simple possession charge ended him up on probation for 3 years, for less than a gram of marijuana.
He now has a criminal record, all because he once chose to safely and successfully medicate his crippling spasticity and pain with a non toxic, non addictive plant medicine. Now he’s prescribed high doses of oxycodone several times a day, as well as a fentanyl patch. These medications are extremely deadly, and both carry a high risk for addiction….. yet they’re both completely legal. Neither one treats Devin’s spasticity or help him walk more comfortably like the cannabis medicine did, they only treat the pain. Devin says “It sickens me that the one medicine that helps both my pain and muscle stiffness so I can walk comfortably, is illegal and will get me locked up with a criminal record. It’s sad that highly addictive and often deadly opioids are perfectly legal in Tennessee and are the only option pain patients legally get here. It’s absurd that a plant medicine which has never killed by overdose and isn’t physically addictive is illegal here, despite being a legal medicine in several states. Tennessee politicians need to listen to the patients, we need access to medical cannabis so we can medicate with the safer option to these opioids.”