Kara, a 98-pound girl with gray-blue eyes and short brown hair, has severe autism and cerebral palsy. The blows are a symptom of her autism, though no one knows what triggers them. Right now, she’s not hitting that hard. At her most intense, though, she makes herself bleed and breaks her own bones. It takes two people to restrain her while a third person grabs her “rescue” meds. If she’s able to wriggle free, she fights back. She’s bitten into the bone of her mother’s finger. Her school has documented her hitting herself 3,000 times in one day.
“Hey, girl,” she sings. “Guess what? It’s Friday! Friday means fun day!”
Kara, 17, sits up and stares in her mother’s eyes. Then she brings her palm to her ear, poised to start doing what, by now, more than 70 million people have seen her do on Facebook.
“No,” her mother says.
Kara starts smashing the base of her palm against her ear. Over and over
The family has tried prescription drugs, but the only remedy they have found that soothes Kara quickly and effectively is marijuana.
Her father, Mark Zartler, gives it to her using a vaporizer attached to a medical mask. Just owning the drug is a crime punishable by six months in jail.
The Zartlers want Texas lawmakers to pass a bill, currently on file in Austin, that would legalize marijuana for autism patients under a doctor’s care. Such a bill is unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled Legislature, where many conservatives remain unconvinced the unproven treatment is a good idea.
To persuade lawmakers, Mark and Christy decided to make a video last month about their struggle — despite the possibilities of getting in trouble with the police or Child Protective Services.
The video shows Kara punching herself and yelling. Mark places a clear-plastic medical mask over Kara’s nose and mouth and fills it with marijuana vapor. Within minutes, Kara is calm.
Mark posted the video to his Facebook page. It went viral and made national news.
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