Photo by Anne Stokes
by Mike Blount
On Valentine’s Day in 1961, 9-year-old Eddie Henderson’s life was changed forever when he was struck by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. The hit-and-run accident shattered his right femur and caused him to be in and out of the hospital for treatment for four years. Though he eventually recovered from the accident, he suffered from debilitating pain for most of his life.
“When I turned 14, I was still in a wheelchair and I was told by doctors I would never walk again,” Henderson says. “My father passed away that same year, and I knew I had to get out of the chair and teach myself to walk again. I did so, but walking caused me a great deal of pain. I’ve lived with that pain my whole life.”
In 1969, Henderson was enrolled in his first year of college when he was invited to a friend’s birthday party. It was there that an acquaintance told him to try marijuana for dealing with his pain. Henderson says it saved his life.
“Doctors have tried to manage my pain with a number of different pharmaceuticals in my life,” Henderson says. “But they come with a number of side effects. Over time, you have to take more of them to continue being effective. You can become addicted. You can easily go too far. Marijuana does a better job of allowing me to manage my pain without those other risks.”
Henderson continued to self-medicate with marijuana for years, even though its use was not viewed positively by the medical community or society. But to Henderson, it was the most effective pain management tool he had at his disposal. It would become even more crucial to him after a second accident.
On Christmas Day 2012, Henderson was crossing a street in Berkeley, Calif. when he was struck again — this time by a taxi. The driver sped away, leaving Henderson behind.
With no health insurance, Henderson was saddled with medical bills. He lost his job and became homeless before ending up in Sacramento in search of help. On a chance walk down a street, he passed by A Therapeutic Alternative and was drawn to the dispensary. It was another life-changing moment for him.
“The people there are involved in their own healing … and they are there to help people in an inspiring way,” Henderson says. “They’re using ancient wisdom and medicine that I’ve never been exposed to that are absolutely wonderful, and they’ve introduced me to new things to help me manage my pain — things like yoga. With alternative therapy combined with marijuana, my pain management is as good as it’s ever been in my life.”
Photo by Anne Stokes