Mark Zartler says cannabis is the only thing that has helped his daughter, who has cerebral palsy and severe autism that causes her to self-harm. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)
Kara Zartler’s life began too soon.
Along with her twin sister, she was born at 26 weeks. At 1 pound 12 ounces, she weighed slightly less than the healthy Keeley. Then, 10 hours into life, Kara suffered a brain hemorrhage. Seventeen years later, she’s lucky to be alive. But she has cerebral palsy and severe autism, which in her case causes compulsive self-injurious behavior that began with she was 4 years old.
“It’s a terrible sight to see,” her father, Mark Zartler, told The Washington Post via telephone from his home in Richardson, Tex. “She hits herself in the face repeatedly. She gets into a loop, and she can’t really stop. Sometimes she can self-recover, but other times it just extends and extends and extends.”
After years of trying different drugs with little luck, Zartler eventually gave Kara marijuana on the advice of a friend, even though it’s illegal in his home state of Texas. To his surprise, it worked. Now, years later, he has chosen to go public with his story — though he risks potentially unwanted attention — in hopes of changing his state’s laws. Currently, Senate Bill 269 is in committee. If the bill becomes law, Texas will be the 29th state to legalize medical marijuana.
When they began, Kara’s fits, which include hitting, scratching and biting herself, would last