HOUSTON -- On Dec. 7, Emily Bauer began to slur her speech, stumble, complain of massive migraine headaches and began to turn violent, psychotic, and too difficult for her frightened family to control.
Her family called for an ambulance to take her to the nearest hospital. But within 24 hours she was being life-flighted from a Cypress-area hospital to the Texas Medical Center, the victim of a massive series of strokes.
She suffered severe brain damage. She was only 16 years old. And the culprit was synthetic marijuana.
She actually had swelling on her brain that they had to drill into her head to relieve the pressure, said her father Tommy Bryant. They didn t even know if she d make it through that procedure. But they had to do it.
Emily has turned 17 since she has been hospitalized at Children s Memorial Hermann. But doctors warned her family it could be her last birthday. Doctors discovered that Emily s brain damage was extensive. She was disconnected from life support. Plans were being made to donate her organs if she died. A month later Emily is still alive but she can t walk, she can t feed herself, and she is blind. Recently she began to recognize her parents and is able to have limited conversations. But Bryant and his wife have been given no assurances how much of their daughter will ever come back.
It s hard, Bryant told us of the now month-long ordeal. It literally, the way we re looking at it now, is we re gonna re-raise a child. I don t wish this upon anybody, anybody at all, he said.
Bryant has since discovered that his daughter and her friends were experimenting with synthetic marijuana brands like Kush and Spice that the teens purchased over the counter at a convenience store near her home. Multiple injuries and deaths across the United States have been linked to the products sold as incense or potpourri in small packets and marked with the disclaimer not for human consumption. Lawmakers and municipalities have been struggling for years to outlaw the products and their ingredients.
Some of the chemicals that we re reading online that are in these things, I mean I wouldn t put on my grass, said Bryant.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says about 11 percent of high school seniors reported using synthetic marijuana, according to a 2011 survey. And calls about synthetic marijuana to the American Association of Poison Control Centers more than doubled between 2010 and 2011.
Bryant and his family, with their daughter still in the hospital and hoping she can be transferred soon to a physical rehabilitation facility, have started their own Facebook page dedicated to Emily s story and the dangers of synthetic marijuana. It s called S.A.F.E. Synthetics Awareness for Emily.
If we reach one more kid, a family that doesn t have to go through this, that doesn t have to spend hours upon hours, nights upon nights in a hospital not knowing what their kid is going to get back, then I feel like we ve accomplished one small thing, he said.
Emily s family and friends will also hold a fundraiser and benefit for Emily Saturday January 19th at Mezzanine Lounge, 2200 Southwest Freeway in Houston to help pay for her rising medical expenses.