It was an emotional and exciting time as Whangarei dad Brendan Guest held his daughter for the first time in a year.
Wife Jessika Guest, daughter Jade and son Ethan have been living in Colorado since June last year, so 7-year-old Jade can access medical marijuana to treat the severe epilepsy which saw her having up to 40 seizures a day. But the decision meant Mr Guest had to remain in Whangarei, where he is working as a truck driver. So, when the family were able to see dad again when he visited recently, it was "emotional".
"Jade is a daddy's girl, it was very emotional for them both. Even though Jade is still nonverbal, I could see the excitement and sadness in her eyes because she had been missing him so much. Brendan was able to finally hold Jade and see how much she has changed, it was very exciting," said Mrs Guest.
Since trialing medical cannabis, Mrs Guest said Jade's cognitive abilities and quality of life had improved.
[caption id="attachment_1461" align="alignnone" width="619"] The Guest family were recently reunited when dad Brendan came to visit after spending a year back in Whangarei while the rest of the family moved to Colorado. Brendan (left), Jessika, Ethan and Jade.[/caption]
"She has improved fine motor skills like grabbing and holding, hugging and squeezing. She's happy all of the time, aware of her surroundings and more engaged with interactions from people and animals."
Mrs Guest said 9-year-old Ethan had also adjusted well to life in Colorado, but missed his dad and said the pair reuniting again was a proud moment for Mr Guest.
"Birthdays and Christmas, first day of school and Cub scout achievements are all things he wishes his dad could be here to see. He is the strong big brother, his dad says 'look after your mum and Jade' and that's exactly what he does".
Mrs Guest said the family were able to spend four weeks together in Colorado before Mr Guest returned to Whangarei.
"We visited friends and family, enjoyed horseback riding, ATVing, swimming, American country dancing, and trout fishing in the mountain lakes of Colorado. It was also summer here, so he was quite happy missing a winter month over there," said Mrs Guest.
Last Christmas was the first Christmas the family had spent apart and Mrs Guest said it would be the same this Christmas. She said being away from each other had been "very difficult".
"We both agree that it's a major sacrifice that has its challenges mentally. We seem to take turns counselling one another back to remembering that everything will be okay and the changes in Jade have made it all worth it."
Mrs Guest said she followed the story of 19-year-old Alex Renton, who was the first person in New Zealand to receive cannabidiol in hospital after he was prescribed Elixinol, a cannabidiol made from hemp.
She said, through a group on Facebook called United in Compassion (facebook.com/groups/MC4CPNZ), herself and others had been advocating for more trials and access to cannabis for medical use.
-The family are now fundraising for a wheelchair accessible van for Jade.
To donate visit givealittle.co.nz/profile/individual/jsika007