The name Macario means “blessing” in Tagalog – the indigenous Filipino language. It’s an apt name for someone whose very existence is a scientific anomaly. Against all odds, Macario is not only living and breathing, but also full of life – always telling jokes, and is known as the funniest kid in class. He’s there wherever he goes, including on tour with his father, Grammy-winning reggae artist Gramps Morgan.
For a kid whose parents will one day accept the fact that he will be tube-fed however long he lives, seven-year-old Macario’s appetite is greater than ever, eclipsing any of his four siblings; His favorite food is spaghetti. He’s not just a foodie — he’s also a big beach boy, says his mom, Dr. Annabelle Manalo Morgan. “I think there is a connection between the brain and the water,” she says. “He feels so peaceful and happy when he’s at the beach.”
When Dr. Manalo gave birth to Morgan Macario, Her third child was born with a stroke and suffered from 200 to 500 epileptic seizures a day. After trying everything to treat his condition, after five weeks in the intensive care unit, Macario underwent a nine-hour operation in which 38 percent of his brain was removed. At 28 days old, he was expected to be paralyzed on the right side of his body. By the time he was six months old, he had progressed no further than a newborn.
His parents found acceptance, believing: If this is what God gave us, then it must be.
However, Dr. Manalo Morgan was no stranger to miracles. Her life changed after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, where she was in college, and vied for a career in professional basketball. Fate had other plans for her. After earning degrees in biology and chemistry, she decided to pursue her MD at Georgetown University—not long before her father was diagnosed, back home in Canada, with stage 4 cancer. The doctors gave him one month to live, so she came home to spend time with him. “Long story short,” she says, “I started giving my father every comprehensive thing I could think of to fight for my father’s life.” “A month later, he was 100 percent cancer-free. He beat what all the doctors — whom I respected — said he wouldn’t do. At that time I realized medicine is a protocol.”
Doctors aren’t trained to think in terms of personalized treatments, she explains: “They aren’t trained to think outside the box.” This treatment for this indication; And the treatments themselves have to be approved by the institutions. “After that point, I decided I didn’t want to be a doctor,” says Dr. Manalo Morgan, now a scientist at Vanderbilt University who studies “chemoimaging” at the cellular level and how it affects people with heart disease. “I just didn’t want to know how To treat something, but also Why. That was the beginning of my path into cell biology and doctoral research and the understanding that scientists make medicines. It’s scientists who understand chemical reactions and how different things work in our bodies, not doctors.”
But as she pursues her research, Dr. Manalo Morgan still wants to know, “How does this science I’m doing on a plate really translate to humans?”
She wanted to feel like she was really contributing to medicine. And so, her chance came as a blessing: Macario. The mother will do her best for her child. Here, I simply refused to accept what the doctors predicted and what was expected as reality. So, at the same time, Dr. Manalo Morgan risked experimenting with cannabis to find a solution — regardless of the fact that she lives in Nashville, where the plant is still illegal under state law.
A combination of listening to her intuition and word on the street about the benefits of cannabis — especially for those with conditions like epilepsy that causes seizures — led Macario to formulate a drug. Aside from the fact that she couldn’t legally obtain cannabis medicine in Tennessee anyway, she wanted to make it herself so she knew it was pure and contained only exactly what you put in it.
In essence, feeding her son a non-psychoactive cannabis formula through his g-tube was a total science experiment that…it worked. Within two days, his eyes began to move. Within two months, he was crawling like a normal baby. And within a year, he was walking. To this day, at the age of seven, he has no special needs — and he’s still missing nearly 40 percent of his brain, including the areas that are usually responsible for many of the things he does today. “So I wrote a book to talk about it,” says Dr. Manalo Morgan, referring to her recently published memoir, Mighty Flower: How Cannabis Saved My Son (Forbes Books). “It’s about my mom’s courage to never give up on your child, to look outside the box, outside of the conventional. I think my son is a miracle and an example of how powerful our brain actually is.”
In fact, Macario is missing vital brain regions for communication, memory, right-sided vision, and visual spatial organization. “It does everything it’s not supposed to be able to do,” says Dr. Manalo Morgan. “It shows the brain’s ability to rewire, to make up for lost area. We only use 10 to 12 percent of our brain anyway, and his brain has been forced to work in more sophisticated ways — and we are capable of it.”
Macario’s story and Dr. Manalo Morgan’s dedication prompts the question: Does the “medicine” being produced today allow new connections to be made within the brain and body, or do the vast majority of drugs simply act as bandages? Real medicine, suggests Dr. Manalo Morgan, heals from the inside out, allowing homeostasis and our defense mechanisms to kick in.
In the past two years, Dr. Manalo Morgan has visited an astounding 34 countries, speaking with different presidents and health ministers about cannabis — not in the usual sense of a blatant defense of the plant itself, but of policy reform that enables more research.
At present, Dr. Annabelle Manalo Morgan continues to give Macario A CBD Tint when you feel he needs it, just to keep him balanced. “I think of hemp as an essential supplement that we all need in our daily lives,” she says. Offering a comparison, Dr. Manalo Morgan explains that just as water satisfies our need for hydration, hemp satisfies our endocannabinoid system’s need for balance. But just as each person needs a different amount of hydration, depending on their size and constitution, each person also needs a unique medical protocol to tailor their nervous system. It doesn’t make sense.
“There are incredible plant compounds out there, not just cannabinoids, that we can scientifically design and use to replace some of our toxic drugs,” says Dr. Manalo Morgan. “Let’s slip hemp into the conversation. This thing TRUE; People can help. Let’s study it.”