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Rockwall family relies on faith, community ~ and unconventional treatment

God’s the hero of this story

(ROCKWALL, TX – August 22, 2015) When Rockwall resident Meredith Fox became pregnant with her daughter Pierson nearly five years ago, she was overjoyed with the prospect of being a new mom. She never imagined not being able to read with, play with, or individually care for her little girl.

At first glance this might seem mystifying, because Meredith and her family appear to be the picture of health. But under the surface, she’s been dealing with a silent but deadly disease for the past nine years. Nonetheless, she is determined that through her faith, God will be the hero of this story.

Ben and Meredith Fox, along with their daughter Pierson, are sporting their ‘In the foxhole…TRUST’ T-shirts created specifically for the fundraising event that was organized to support their family. A fellow church member, Jerald Allen with God’s Word On Shirts Screenprinting & Embroidery, provided the shirts on very short notice. Prov. 3:5-6 is on the back.

Meredith’s journey and battle with Autoimmune Epilepsy began with what she and her husband Ben describe as “episodes.” Initially, Meredith felt unwell at times, but had no idea she was having seizures because she was not convulsing.

It took over two years and 28 medical consultations before Meredith was finally diagnosed. Since then, the Foxes’ lives have been consumed with testing every medicine, treatment and clinical trial they can find in an effort to combat Meredith’s worsening condition. While some treatments seemed to make headway at first, her seizures became more frequent and severe.

Ben Fox, who lovingly refers to his wife as “Princess” (because she is a child of the One True King), described the exhausting process their family has endured.

“It’s been constant fine tuning and adjustment,” Ben said. “Meredith’s prior health history was basically perfect. To start having these episodes at 27 was very unique.”

Meredith hugs her “amazing” 5th grade teacher, Linda Lyon. “She has been an incredible support and comes over to help take care of Pierson as often as she possibly can.”

Meredith soon discovered that writing, reading, and certain frequencies (including a baby’s cry) were triggers for her seizures. After the birth of her daughter, she was forced to rely on Ben, the community, and an au pair to primarily care for Pierson.

Following a rollercoaster of treatment options and a prolonged hospital visit earlier this year, doctors told Meredith they had run out of options. She had endured countless pills and IVs, dietary changes, even undergone brain surgery. The doctors discovered that due to the bilateral nature of her seizures, her particular condition was so rare that she might be the only case in the world. They said there was nothing else they could do.

Meredith decided to be discharged from the hospital anyway. She wanted to spend her remaining time at home with her family. When she and Ben attended services at their church the next week, both were at their breaking point. Ben gave a testimony in front of their congregation, and everyone prayed over Meredith.

“It was the first time I’ve ever seen my husband cry,” Meredith said. “I told my pastor’s wife I was ready to go home. She said ‘Meredith, the Lord is going to heal you. Let him decide how he is going to do it.’”

Game Changer: Hemp Extract

Later that day, a woman from the Foxes’ congregation recommended a treatment that seemed a little unconventional.

Developers in Colorado had begun designing treatment options in the form of a dietary supplement extracted from the cannabis plant. At first, the Foxes were hesitant to try something that seemed to fall under the umbrella of medical marijuana.

“I was president of D-FY-IT (Drug Free Youth In Texas) at Rockwall High School,” Meredith said. “I said ‘I’m not touching drugs.’ It made all the difference once someone explained to us what it really was.”

Further research uncovered something that changed the game for the Fox family: the supplement that might be able to work miracles for Meredith was extracted from hemp, which makes it a horse of a different color.

The supplement is called “Charlotte’s Web,” named after an eight-year-old epilepsy patient whose condition was transformed by the treatment.Charlotte’s Web is a hemp extract, which means it contains a high percentage of CBD (a helpful medical ingredient) and an extremely low percentage of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana traditionally used to get high). While marijuana contains 25% THC, hemp contains only 4%. And regardless of the amount, as Meredith later learned, the THC has to be heated in order to produce any psychoactive effects.

“I’m not at all advocating for smoking marijuana,” Meredith said. “They are the same species, but two different animals.”

Meredith and Ben were only able to cross state lines with two small vials of the hemp oil because of government limits on medical cannabis. But after using theCharlotte’s Web supplement for a few weeks, Meredith’s condition improved by leaps and bounds. After having 497 seizures in May alone and reaching the pinnacle of her illness, Meredith can now go for days in a row without a single seizure. This has revolutionized her quality of life, and the Foxes hope her health will only continue to improve.

Plus, as Meredith points out, her anti-seizure medicine is much more toxic than the hemp extract. “If one were to drink a whole bottle of hemp extract – approximately a three month supply – they might spend a little more time in the restroom, but if I take just two extra pills of my anti-seizure meds, I could be in a coma. If I took a three month supply, I would be dead,” she said. She added that the current approved medications can cause more damage to the brain, compared to the safety profile and the healing that have been proven with hemp; and it can take many years to wean off prescription meds (probably a minimum of three years for Meredith), likely resulting in breakthrough seizures.

Meredith’s mom Darlene Reed (front left), holds granddaughter Pierson Fox and is joined by Pierson’s babysitter Sam Scott; Rockwall elementary school namesake Sharon Shannon; Meredith’s Stingerette instructor Diane Martin; and family friend Diane DeFranco.

Throughout their journey, the Foxes have described their faith in God and support from the community as sustaining forces. Meredith’s mother, Darlene Reed, described their story as one filled with love rather than heartbreak.

Meredith’s junior high cheerleading sponsor, Brenda Parish (front left) is joined by her grandsons Lucca and Max Martinelli, her husband Rick, and school nurse and Fox family friend Cheryl Livingston.

“With the trials and tribulations they have endured for nine years, one might think this is a sad story,” said Darlene. “However, we see it as a love story. Ben is living out his wedding vows and never leaves her side to protect her. His business is commission-based, yet Meredith is his first priority. It is a love story for God. This precious family wants to glorify God. From the very beginning they have wanted God to be the ‘hero’ of their story. And it is a love story about this wonderful community. Our village of Rockwall is amazing with the love and support they have shown. While the daily challenges are enormous physically and financially, we are blessed.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge HIM, and He will direct your paths.” Prov. 3:5-6

BrookeLyn Mershawn, shown here with her husband Matt, said she felt called to organize the event as a way to ease the burden on the Fox family.

The community had an opportunity to show their support for the Fox family at a Joe Willy’s fundraiser organized by Meredith’s old school friends in early July.

BrookeLyn Mershawn, who attended school with Meredith from elementary to high school, said she felt called to host the event as a way to ease the burden on Meredith and her family.

“The Fox family and Meredith’s mother Darlene are precious gems from the glorious God almighty,” BrookeLyn said. “I’ve been in close contact with Meredith’s mother for the past year, and this year Meredith was hospitalized again due to the repetitive amounts of seizures. I could see the deep sadness in her mother’s eyes while listening to what these seizures were doing to Meredith internally.”

BrookeLyn said the fundraiser, which will help support the Foxes financially since they face immense medical challenges and are limited to one income, was successful. But most importantly, according to BrookeLyn, God was glorified.

“We are all thankful for a community full of wonderful people. Friends and family chipped in to bring it all together. The donations were amazing, and God was honored, which is exactly what we wanted,” she said.

In attendance was a local motorcycle club called America’s Guardians, comprised of law enforcement officers, fire servicemen, medical personnel, military veterans and select citizens. Member Steve Brassil explained that the Guardians make it their mission to attend community events and support those who need it. Brassil said Blue Ribbon News alerted him to the fundraiser, so the whole gang came to Joe Willy’s in honor of Meredith.

Members of America’s Guardians, a local motorcycle club, read about the Fox Family Fundraiser at Blue Ribbon News, and stopped by to show support.

“I saw it on the Blue Ribbon News facebook page, and saw that it was a Rockwall resident,” Brassil said. “That’s what our club is all about, representing and helping out residents in need.”

The crowd also included several of Meredith’s former teachers and family friends who drove in from hours away.

The Foxes expressed gratitude for the encouragement they received at the event, but they also used it as an opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of hemp extract and to combat misinformation about its purposes. They hope to see bills passed that will allow for more widespread access to the supplement that has been such a blessing to their family.

“Blessings come to you so they can flow through you,” Meredith said.

“Don’t let a blessing stop with you,” Ben added.

Jim and Cindy Palomo (front) and Jerry and Nedda Tilley were among the supporters.

“I don’t know what to say other than I am honored,” Meredith said. “Just in Texas there are over 150,000 kids and adults with intractable epilepsy. I don’t know how anyone could survive this road without the Lord carrying them. So, it is my prayer that everyone will take action and reach out to their congressmen and senators and show their support of these bills (HR 1635/S 1333). However, even if they don’t, we still have the Lord to carry us through. That is the most important part of this story.”

The Foxes invite the community to support this cause by contacting Senators and Representatives through coalitionforaccessnow.org. Meredith said she is passionate about this cause because most Epilepsy patients are children whose brains have not fully developed due to their disease and who therefore cannot advocate for their needs. Being an adult patient and therefore an anomaly, she hopes she can be their voice.

“My prayer through this is that people’s relationship with the Lord will grow, that I can be a voice for those who cannot speak, and that this is used for God’s glory. Let’s fight for those who can’t fight and take this in front of our Congressmen.”

Story and photos by Julie Anne White, Blue Ribbon News reporter. 

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