By Adam Kincaid / For the AJC
Janea Cox, her husband Brian, their 7-year-old daughter Haleigh and their chocolate Lab Kala left their Forsyth home in December 2016 for their semi-annual trip to Colorado. They flew into Denver and made their way toward Colorado Springs in a rental car, squeezing the three of them, a wheelchair and the dog into the small, four-door sedan. A handicap-equipped van would have been better, but the economy ride was what they could afford.
The family checked into a budget hotel and went to sleep; not that they ever sleep well, or for very long. Young Haleigh was up through the night, as usual. She has epilepsy so severe she requires constant oversight. For most of her life, her young brain hasn’t been seizure-free long enough to develop normally. So she gets around in a wheelchair, receives nourishment through a feeding tube and is barely able to communicate. Haleigh is a prisoner in her own body.
She also has type one diabetes. Kala is a service dog specially trained to check blood sugar levels by smell and alert handlers of spikes — to do what Haleigh cannot do for herself, to speak out when she needs help.
These family trips are not fun. They stretch the Coxes to their financial limit. And they take everything Janea and Brian have just to get to the offices of the Flowering Hope Foundation, where botanist Jason Cranford dispenses his specially formulated cannabis oil, Haleigh’s Hope, named after his special client. Janea believes it is the only thing that has kept her daughter alive.