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The Pharmacist Almost Killed My Mom

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi Karen Hoyt,
    Wow, that is a true story that has happened and can happen to any one of us. Medication management is an important component of managing our disease.
    Barbara Moore (site Moderator)

  • Karen Hoyt author
    8 months ago

    It’s great to hear about that ‘vacation” claim people have now.

    My family was SO new to this when it happened. You know, with some drugs, it can wait ti you hear back from the doctor. With COPD, they better HURRY UP! Right?

    xo Karen

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi Karen and thanks for chiming in. Yes, that ‘vacation override’ can be a godsend. I’ve used it personally several times over the many years and can attest to its value and convenience. It can ease a lot of worry and anxiety! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • KevinDavitt
    9 months ago

    CVS has something called a “vacation” claim or words to that effect. They were able to help me out when I lost an inhaler and it was way too soon to refill.
    I guess losing medication while on “vacation” is pretty common so they fill the prescription without much fuss.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi KevinDavitt and, as Karen said (below), thanks for posting what you did. The community may also be interested in knowing, most pharmacy plans offer what is known as a ‘vacation override’ for just these sorts of situations. It’s good to know and not well publicized at all! Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • KevinDavitt
    8 months ago

    Thanks, Leon.

  • Karen Hoyt author
    9 months ago

    Thanks for adding that to the thread. It’s good information for everyone to ask about at their pharmacy.
    I kind of found this out the hard way while out of state and got a “vacation” refill on some meds.
    So glad you put this in here!!

  • KevinDavitt
    8 months ago

    apologies for being so slow….still getting used to the site.
    I stumbled upon it as well. Glad to be of service.

  • BHAT
    11 months ago

    YOU MAY ALSO ASK THE DR. FOR A SAMPLE THAT WAY SHE SHOULD HAVE SOME EXTRA JUST IN CASE.

  • Karen Hoyt author
    11 months ago

    We learned to do that. It was scary to see how easily she could run out. It sounds like you are really on top of managing your meds! That’s so smart.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    That’s a good suggestion, BHAT, thanks for posting it. Some doctors do have samples in the office while others, sadly, do not. It never hurts to ask!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Mendo Bruce
    11 months ago

    This is why I ALWAYS refill my prescriptions when I have at least a weeks supply left. There have been so many insurance “snafu’s” and “we need a new prescription from your Dr.” that I would never try to refill when I “need” the medication.

    I even keep a supply of steroids and antibiotics for exacerbations on hand rather than having to depend on smooth aquisition of mediations while I am very sick and in desperate need

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi Mendo Bruce and thanks for sharing what you find works for you so well. It seems that with some experience and pre-planning, you’re able to maintain a small supply of those medications you need on hand to manage your condition. It’s always best to be able to rely on oneself with the cooperation and support of our physician partner. Keep up the good work!
    We appreciate your input.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • ps5cj2
    11 months ago

    Your story is just so scary. You have to know what it’s like to not being able to breathe and no medicine, to know what your mom was going experiencing. This is exactly why I have a local small pharmacy who has known me for over 30 years and has saved my life more times than I care to mention in that time. I’ll never go to a large pharmacy and we have several. I’ve been where your mom was and believe me, it’s scary! Bless her. (and your daughter for calming her down)

  • Karen Hoyt author
    11 months ago

    I’m glad you have a local pharmacy. With 30 years of knowing you, wow! That’s amazing and I bet it give you a lot of security knowing that they are always there if you need a back up.
    I think that when the diagnosis is new and the pharmacy is big, it’s easy to get lost in the system.
    Yes, my daughter is an angel. She’s the one who saw I was writing about mom and started telling that story. She helped me write it because we both know how scary it was for mom. Thanks for commenting!! xo Karen

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi ps5cj2 and thanks so much for chiming in with your experiences too. It’s always a good thing to be able to manage your COPD through past experiences, the right supply of medications, and the cooperation of your prescribing physician.
    Wishing you the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • WillDoe
    11 months ago

    Hi Karen Hoyt!
    Last summer we had a lot of smoke in the air due to forest fires. I had run my allbuteral dry and called the pharmacy, they delivered a new prescription in less than 2 hours.
    They had been getting a lot of calls!
    I think they are wising-up to whats going on. Let’s hope!
    Thanks for the article
    willdoe

  • Karen Hoyt author
    11 months ago

    willdoe –
    No that’s what I call service! I’m so thankful that you had that delivery.

    May I ask a question? … Did you have a back up plan in case their response wasn’t as accommodating? I’m hoping this article will help those who are NOT aware find a way to prepare.

    Thanks for the comment!
    xo Karen

  • WillDoe
    11 months ago

    Karen Hoyt
    I feel slightly stunned: no, I don’t have a back up plan…
    I will leave a message with my MD to authorize an extra Allbuterol.
    (My ‘spell check’ didn’t recognize Allbuterol, and wants it changed to ‘Butterball’… I hope my MD’s office isn’t relying on the same spell-check!)
    Thanks again
    willdoe

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi Karen and thanks for sharing this story with the community. I see that kodiac has made a suggestion for you to consider.
    Most third-party payers permit refills 5-7 days ahead of the ‘renewal’ date and I would think Medicare is no exception. The pharmacists (should) know all this and be able to accommodate their patients accordingly. As well, there are usually ‘overrides’ built into the system for these types of occurrences. I’m sorry your mom and your family went through this. It sounds like you plan on putting measures in place to prevent it from recurring. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • kodiac
    11 months ago

    Have your doctor order a three month supply with a 5 day renewal notification for refills.

  • Karen Hoyt author
    11 months ago

    That’s a good idea. I think insurance companies are getting wiser and allowing this type of refill more and more.
    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    It’s our pleasure, Karen.
    Regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

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