The Pharmacist Almost Killed My Mom

The heavy breathing on the phone sent shivers down my daughters spine.

Caller ID told her it was grandma, but the constricted breath didn’t allow my mom to speak. She hit speed dial, and hoped for a miracle. My daughter talked gently and encouraged her grandma to breath in slowly through her nose, hold the breath, and then exhale slowly. She finally learned that my mom was in her car, in the pharmacy parking lot. She was there within 5 minutes. That day stands out in all of our lives. It was the day the pharmacist almost killed my mom.

We knew that mom got confused about her prescriptions.

We also understood the importance of having her medications organized, but none of us realized it could be deadly… until that day.

Mom had wheeled her oxygen cart out to her car. She was a go getter and didn’t let very much stop her from being independent. She enjoyed having lunch with friends, shopping for hobby and craft supplies, or going to her favorite discount stores. This particular morning, she was going to the pharmacist. She loved the convenience of having a drive through window. It was one less step for her to have to take.

She pulled up to the window and asked for a refill of her inhaler. After a few minutes, the tech came back to the window with information that sent shivers down mom’s spine. “You’re 4 days too early and the insurance will not approve”.

The brain chemicals sent a message to mom’s brain that it was a “fight or flight” situation.

Most people have experienced that weak legged, shallow breath, response. It creates anxiety. She began to explain that the inhaler in her bag was empty, and asked them to call her doctor. Her hands began to shake on the steering wheel. The tech left the window for a moment and came back quickly. Mom was told that they could not help her. There were no exceptions. She then asked mom to please move so that the next car in line could be served.

Mom pulled forward and began to cry. There was no breath to support her tears. Dizziness set in. She hit speed dial. It was a smart move. After my daughter arrived, she calmed her grandma down with slow breath and added hugs and reassurances. Then she went inside the pharmacy.

First she inquired about the rules regarding mom’s medicare policy. Then she made some vague threats about her grandma dying in the parking lot. The lead pharmacist was called to the front. He had known our family for years. While at first, hesitant, he eventually refilled the inhaler as a “loan” and mom got her medicine. It was a scary experience for all of us.

What came from that awful day was new knowledge.

We learned that certain steps needed to be taken, on our part, regarding prescription drugs. We all came to understand mom’s vulnerability, and took steps to organize her medication. We also learned that when someone is in desperate need, having a home town local pharmacist can save your life. I hope that no one ever has to go through what we did that day.

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