I]t was 2001. He was 32 years old. He was working at Rocket Bowl in Chatsworth, California. He was healthy. He was vibrant. He had his whole life ahead of him. Then…
“They told me it took 8 paramedics to hold me down. I was throwing them around like they were rag dolls.”
It was June 22 and John Carter was on his way out the door after his shift when the Grand mal seizure struck. They took him to the hospital and treated him…until they concluded that his insurance wouldn’t cover anymore of his treatments. “That’s when they kicked me out.”
“Three days later they gave me a call and told me I had to return because I had some sort of fungus growing in my spine,” he recalls. Leave it to possible malpractice repercussions for the hospital to show some compassion. Let us explain…
Back when John was 17, he was involved in a swimming pool accident, one that, due to a hairline fracture in his neck, left him paralyzed from the waist up for almost 8 weeks. “The doctor told me I would grow out of the fracture, but the fracture got worse and I didn’t grow out of it.”
It was this very fracture that is suspected as the culprit that led to the seizure that he had 15 years later. The one that landed him in the hospital. The hospital that kicked him out…and then called him back in.
John returned to the hospital and underwent surgery to try to repair the damage and treat the fungus. Apparently they accidentally replaced the bone in his neck with one that was too big. This led to - yet again - paralysis. This time, however, it would last longer than 8 weeks. This time, they told him, he’d be in a wheelchair the rest of his life.
His first thought? “Oh hellllll no!”
Carter entered physical therapy immediately and was there for the first year and a half after the incident. “Luckily enough the therapist left me on the bed that was close enough to the parallel bars. I pushed off myself and got about halfway down those bars before she got to me, strapped a weight belt around my waist and tried to get me back to the bed. I kept on pulling the best I could, saying ‘Let me just walk!’ Let me go!’”
Eventually, John was able to get enough mobility to graduate from wheelchair to walker to two canes all the way down to where he stands now: one cane. He attributes this miraculous transformation to two things: bowling and cannabis.
First let’s explain the bowling part. “I’ve been bowling my whole life, it’s my favorite sport. My dad got me into it when I was 5, and a few years after the accident, I was progressing enough to be able to walk with minimal assistance.” So he joined a league with his father and he’s been using bowling as physical therapy ever since. “I have nine bowling balls, all Hammers,” and while he wears a tennis shoe for his right plant foot, his left foot boasts “the same bowling shoe I’ve worn for 24 years.” It was quite an inspiring sight to watch him roll…first carefully sizing up the lane, then planting the cane for support, then expertly swinging and releasing the ball down the lane. In the time we stood there watching him, he rolled 3 strikes and a spare.
Now, for the cannabis part. John is currently taking 500mg of Dilantin for the seizures, Flexeril to loosen the muscles, and Baclofen for spasticity. And while he has not had a single seizure in over 5 years, he is outfitted with a vagus nerve stimulator, which is implanted in his chest under his skin. “Every 5 minutes my implant goes off for 30 seconds,” he tells us. As a matter of fact, several times during our interview, his voice suddenly got softer and more muted. “It sends a current…to prevent seizures,” explains. And if he feels a seizure coming on, he can activate the stimulator manually simply by waving a special magnet watch, that he wears at all times, over the implant.
But it is cannabis that has played an integral part in weening him off of 3 additional addictive pain medications that were leaving him cloudy and lethargic. John attributes the pain relieving effects of cannabis to making him physically comfortable enough to get out of the house, hop on his specially made 3-wheeled recumbent bicycle (that he has miraculously put almost 4000 miles on) to actually get to the bowling alley to continue with his physical therapy.
“Skywalker and Superstar are great at relieving my pain, and Incredible Edibles’ brownies, banana nut bread, and red velvet cakes” are in the rotation as well. Eddie from Patients and Caregivers, located in North Hollywood, which serves as John’s primary caregiver, tells us that “his story is incredibly heartwarming. He is such an inspiration to many people who have received bad prognosis that refuse to give in.”
“John plays testament to the therapeutic effects of willpower…and cannabis.”
What keeps him going? How does a guy who so dangerously flirted with paralysis not once, but twice, find it in himself to keep his head up? “Just like anyone else, I want to enjoy life and have fun,” he tells us. “It does no good to get depressed because not only would it bring me down, but it brings everyone else down.”
Anything else to add?
“Yeah. Let’s roll.”
Photography by Wasim Muklashy