A 46-year-old integrated designer has revealed how a medicinal cannabis prescription has managed to change his life.
Nigel Burt, from Guildford, has revealed how he faced a lifetime of challenges due to a multitude of congenital birth defects that left him with three holes in his heart (eventually fixed when he was 10), a missing kidney and tailbone, the absence of four ribs, and no sphincter muscle or colon to his considerably shorter bowel; his back passage didn’t even exist when he was born.
After numerous surgeries, spending most of his childhood in or visiting hospitals and dealing with the daily struggles to manage the side effects of his unique medical conditions left him with low self-esteem, a serious lack of confidence in his bowels, anxiety, and acute IBS anytime he had to go out.
By the age of 10, Nigel had already undergone a staggering 21 surgeries, including open-heart surgery performed twice, providing him with a temporary reprieve. During this time, he also endured endless hospital visits, where specialists endeavoured to train his thin pelvic floor muscles.
Despite the medical interventions, Nigel still grappled with the enduring effects of his condition, which led to taunts and mental scars throughout his childhood and teenage years.
“Thanks to my bowel issues, one of the most horrific things I had to endure was regularly carrying a month’s supply of nappies into the nurse’s room at school. This was at age 11, but I still had the nickname “nappy rash” late into secondary school.” Nigel says.
He underwent surgery again for his 22nd operation at the end of 2018, in which the surgeon removed eight inches of scarred bowel and repaired a prolapse from the original ‘pull-through’ operation he had as a baby. He’s now been waiting for the same operation for over three years. It has huge implications, causing bleeding, diarrhoea, and the simple ability to evacuate.
Having used cannabis recreationally in the past, he was aware of how much better his gut felt and so started looking into the benefits of cannabis for his symptoms with the aim of improving his quality of life. Nigel discovered that, despite having to obtain it illegally, it could effectively alleviate some of the most debilitating aspects of his condition.
Nigel reported that when he consumed good-quality cannabis, his metabolism slowed down, cramps disappeared, and his gastrointestinal discomfort eased within minutes, meaning he could leave the house with confidence in his bowels rather than constantly fearing his worst nightmare. “It locked down my guts; I didn’t have to worry about having an accident.”
However, obtaining and affording this medicinal relief presented its own set of challenges for Nigel. The cost and the inconsistent supply of his medicine in his rural village exacerbated the struggles he faced. Nigel shared that there were times, sometimes spanning weeks, when he had no access to the relief he so desperately needed, which took a toll on his well-being and mental health.
“It was a bit of a lottery; good-quality cannabis is expensive, and you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, how it was grown, with what nutrients, etc. “You’re taking a risk, not just with the cannabis; there was also always a risk you could get into trouble with the police.”
The introduction of a medicinal cannabis prescription from Releaf was a game-changer for Nigel.
“It gives me a degree of normality in my life,” says Nigel. “When my IBS kicks in, I vape some cannabis and my symptoms calm down within 15 or 20 minutes. I can feel my abdomen relaxing; it’s phenomenal.”
“The mornings are the worst, if it wasn’t for cannabis, I’d be on the loo 10 times in the first hour of getting up.
“Nigel buys medicinal cannabis via the clinic’s subscription service, which costs him approx. £158 a month, and Releaf also provides a prescription card which is recognised by police, so there are no issues around possessing it.
“Medicinal cannabis is of such better quality with zero impurities, the benefits are far more effective than with black-market lottery bud.
“I love to run, but before my medicinal cannabis prescription, it was always a gamble, assuming I could leave the house at all.
“But now, I am managing to run 8–12km a day. The running really helps by clearing trapped wind caused by so much old scar tissue. It relieves a lot of pressure and the “runner’s high” created by endocannabinoids does wonders for my mental health. It’s addictive, I have to get out every day, weather permitting.”
Nigel’s story underscores the life-changing potential of medicinal cannabis for those facing complex medical conditions. Organisations like Releaf have recognised this potential and offer tailored monthly packages based on cannabis prescriptions, specialist consultations for medicinal cannabis, and unique medicinal cannabis cards for added protection. The accessibility and support provided by Releaf have been instrumental in Nigel’s journey to improved well-being.
“A prescription means not having to worry about the police, it’s a huge plus. I would hate to go through the court system because of my medical conditions as friends have unfortunately had to, but in all honesty, it has been the neighbours I worry about the most. Peace of mind reduces the anxiety!”
Despite the battles Nigel has faced, he remains upbeat and positive about life with a great sense of humour. “With medical cannabis, I don’t have to suffer until I’m eventually given the date to have the next surgery.” Nigel also hopes that his prescription will mean he can stay in the best possible health and avoid more surgery in the future.