Traci and Hugo Fernandez already fight the pain and paralysis of chronic spinal cord injuries through research funded by a nonprofit organization they created, the United Paralysis Foundation.
Now the Batavia husband and wife are coming at spinal cord injuries from another angle -- pain management -- as they aim to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Naperville and Joliet.
The Fernandezes, along with Traci's father, Will County Circuit Judge Robert Livas, and a friend, Kathy Tucker, are preparing documents to apply for state licenses to operate the dispensaries beginning next year.
The facilities, to be called 3C Compassionate Care Centers, would sell medical marijuana to people with 40 approved conditions including spinal cord disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, cancer and HIV.
Traci Fernandez has one of those qualifying conditions, a rare neurological disease called transverse myelitis, and she knows how difficult it can be to live with ongoing pain.
"It's almost like raw nerve pain. You get the tingling all the time almost like your limbs are asleep. The pain increases as the day progresses and it will feel like the pins and needles are actually on fire," said Fernandez, 43, who is paralyzed from the chest down. "People are constantly looking for relief from the chronic pain and the things that go along with mobility issues."
If 3C Compassionate Care receives licenses to open dispensaries, Fernandez will not be allowed to become a medical marijuana patient, and neither will the business' other founders or employees. But she said she would gain satisfaction from knowing she can help ease the pain of others with similar conditions.
The business also plans to donate 20 percent of its profits to the United Paralysis Foundation and use another 5 percent to support discount programs for Naperville and Joliet residents -- especially veterans -- who might not be able to pay for the medical marijuana treatment their doctor has recommended.
"Almost every single person knows somebody who this particular product would help," said Livas, who is retiring in November from his seat on the Will County bench to help run the new business. "They've seen everything else fail for these particular patients."
3C plans to open its Naperville location in a 3,000-square-foot leased space at 1701 Quincy Ave., which complies with zoning requirements to be 1,000 feet from the property line of a school or day care and away from residential areas.