Dr. Sanjay Gupta remembers Charlotte Figi, the little girl who changed the world

Charlotte Figi, a child with a catastrophic type of epilepsy who went on to inspire a CBD movement, has passed away at age 13. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reflects on her life.

Posted: Apr 10, 2020 8:51 AM
Updated: Apr 10, 2020 8:51 AM

For the last 20 years, I have straddled the world of medicine and journalism. Many times along the way, I worried that my personality was not suited for either. Both expose you to tremendous joy and inspiration, but can also take you to the depths of despair and sadness.

All along, you are asked to maintain an objective arm's-length from the emotional pain and suffering of those around you. Do your best work, we are told, but don't get too close. The problem is that I often dive in headfirst, and not only do I get close, I embrace and hold tight. Such was the case with sweet Charlotte Figi.

Charlotte changed the world. She certainly changed my world and my mind. She opened my eyes to the possibility of cannabis being a legitimate medicine. She showed me that it worked to stop her crippling seizures, and that it was the only thing that worked. She was proof that withholding a medication, even one that comes in the form of a plant, would be as much a moral failing as a medical one. She set me on a journey throughout the world to visit the scientists, the researchers and the countless patients just like her. She inspired me to dig deeper and not simply dismiss this plant as I had done in the past. She made me smarter, more informed and more thoughtful.

Charlotte Figi was more than an individual, she was an entire movement wrapped up into a sweet girl with a big smile and an even bigger heart.

Yes, I got close. It's hard not to when her mother, Paige, described holding baby Charlotte and feeling her seize every few minutes, wondering if this would be the last movement she would ever sense from her daughter. Yes, I embraced, when I saw Charlotte healthy, and she took me by the hand, walking me around a holiday party in Colorado. Yes, I held tight. Paige reminded me that I once asked to turn off the camera during an interview because my tears flowed too freely and my heart ached at the injustice being heaped on this little girl.

Charlotte passed away Tuesday after battling pneumonia. The underlying illness once again unleashed her seizures, which CBD had kept at bay for years. The suspicion in the middle of this coronavirus pandemic was that she, too, had been infected, but that was never confirmed. She had worsening symptoms of fevers, cough and shortness of breath, tough for anyone to endure, but overwhelming for someone with Dravet syndrome's intractable seizures.

I was sitting in my makeshift basement studio on hour 16 of week 12 of covering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic when I received the devastating text from Melissa Dunst Lipman, who produced all of our "Weed" documentaries, including the first one back in 2013, when I first met Charlotte. The memories immediately flooded my mind. I remembered that the story seemed apocryphal when Melissa first described Charlotte and her significant response to a strain of cannabis that was low in THC and high in CBD. I need to see for myself, I remember thinking, and a few days later I was standing on the Figis' porch in Colorado Springs. Paige, though understandably hesitant, showed me the videos of Charlotte in a fragile state, seizing repeatedly. She patiently explained to me that they had tried several different generations of anti-epileptic medications without success. Charlotte's doctors, I was told, had even recommended a veterinary medication be compounded as a last-ditch effort. Still, cannabis was considered too fringe, Paige had been told. So, Paige had made her own CBD oil in her kitchen sink and gave that to Charlotte instead. And it worked. The little girl who had 300 grand mal seizures a week went on to have only two or three a month.

I remembered meeting the Stanley brothers, who took it on themselves to create a strain of cannabis specifically for this little girl and gave it a beautiful name, Charlotte's Web. I thought of that medicine, but also the wonderful web of people that Charlotte had brought together to become lifelong friends.

Melissa's text simply read: "Charlotte died. Please call me." I had known that Charlotte had been ill but also believed she was on the mend, having been discharged from the hospital days before. I texted Paige, who sent me a heart and said "no more seizures. No more suffering." Once again, the tears, which flowed freely, had to be dabbed away so that I could file my report for television. Once again, I worried that my personality would betray me. As soon as I was done with the television appearance, another text from Paige appeared. "She adored you. You were family. I gave her a good life."

Paige, today we grieve with you. You lost your daughter, and as a parent of three daughters myself, I cannot imagine the pain of that loss. It is the one place I never let my mind go. I spent all night tossing and turning and wondering if there would ever be the right words to say or write. And I am still not sure. So, let me say thank you instead. Thank you for sharing your beautiful Charlotte with the world. She taught us so much and we are all better for it. We are more knowledgeable. We are more enlightened. Thank you for letting me into her life and into her heart. I got close to her and I will never regret it. I adored Charlotte deeply and will miss her even more. And yes, you gave her a wonderful life.

West Lafayette
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
71° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 71°
Rensselaer
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Fowler
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Williamsport
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Crawfordsville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 70°
Frankfort
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 70°
Delphi
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 70°
Monticello
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 70°
Logansport
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 68°
Another great workday for your Tuesday with sunshine
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 774097

Reported Deaths: 14012
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1064061810
Lake571801030
Allen43386701
Hamilton37585426
St. Joseph37480568
Elkhart29847471
Tippecanoe23679231
Vanderburgh23586405
Porter19665327
Johnson18990394
Hendricks18232323
Clark13691199
Madison13675348
Vigo12937256
Monroe12673178
LaPorte12617225
Delaware11207198
Howard10791237
Kosciusko9839124
Hancock8845150
Bartholomew8327157
Warrick8194157
Floyd8108183
Grant7430181
Boone7279105
Wayne7264201
Morgan6974143
Marshall6365117
Dubois6310118
Cass6121112
Noble605891
Dearborn605478
Henry5988111
Jackson520177
Shelby514098
Lawrence4999127
Gibson470997
Montgomery463592
Clinton461755
DeKalb460785
Harrison458377
Huntington426982
Whitley420045
Steuben413661
Miami409373
Jasper403457
Knox396091
Putnam388362
Wabash373184
Adams357156
Ripley353871
Jefferson349787
White341454
Daviess3102100
Wells305581
Greene297585
Decatur294093
Posey288035
Fayette287464
Scott284458
LaGrange278772
Clay277049
Washington256838
Randolph248483
Jennings242149
Spencer240231
Fountain238350
Starke231359
Owen226159
Sullivan223243
Fulton210045
Jay203732
Carroll199723
Orange193856
Perry193039
Vermillion182844
Rush178927
Tipton174348
Franklin173735
Parke157016
Pike143734
Blackford138432
Pulaski124648
Newton124136
Benton111415
Brown106643
Crawford106516
Martin92915
Warren88115
Switzerland8528
Union73710
Ohio58511
Unassigned0429

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events