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When Push Comes to Shove

Pharm errorBy Cathy Jameson

Before we headed south to celebrate Christmas with my family, I created a mental checklist.  Most of the items I had on that list had something to do with Ronan and the things he’d need for our week away.  The top priority was to make sure his seizure medication was filled.  We had a disastrous experience getting his meds filled a year ago right before we took a road trip north.  I did everything right for that other trip – making sure the script was correct, calling and ordering his meds on time, and clearing an entire day to pick them up when the pharmacist said they’d be ready.  Despite that, the medication was not ordered, not ready, and not available.  The thought of having to repeat every awful moment of tracking down what happened and figuring out who didn’t do their job correctly like I had to last January but me on edge.  So, for our Christmas trip, I prepped a bit earlier. 

It didn’t help. 

Pharmacist: Mrs. Jameson, there’s a problem with the order.

Me:  Problem?  It’s the same prescription.  Same strength, same dosage, same everything just like every single month that we order this. 

Pharmacist: Yeah. Sorry.

Silence.

More silence.

Me: Sooooo, are you going to do anything about it or do I have to?

Pharmacist: Oh, we can work on it for you if you’d like.

IF I’D LIKE?! 

I was fuming.  I’m not the pharmacist, I’m not the doctor, and I’m not the insurance company.  That means I’m not the one who, with one quick click of a button, can make things go through.  Of course I wanted them to work on it!

Me: Well, since he is still having seizures and since he still needs that medicine, yes, please do something about it. 

Pharmacist: Oh, okay.

Me: How soon can you work on it?  We have a trip planned and that medicine was promised to us before we’d leave town.

Pharmacist: Well, I guess I can work on it now?

More fuming.  I could’ve ripped her a new one right there on phone.  But I needed that medication sooner than later and for everything to be correct, so I kept my emotions in check.  I’d save a tongue lashing for later once the order was done and in my hands.  Before I replied, I attempted to compose myself. 

Me: You guess?  Or, you will?   

Silence.

Pharmacist: I can do it right now, Mrs. Jameson.  I just need to push it through.  We’ll send a text when the meds are ready.

Me: Good.  I’ll be waiting.

Over the course of the next two days, three different texts came through.  Each one revealed a new problem, a new issue, and a new promised time.  What should’ve been over and done with within hours took far too long.  I cannot tell you how many tears I cried waiting in vain for Ronan’s order to go through. 

Each phone call I made to get more information caused more stress and more frustration.  Even though I’d planned well ahead, the problems to get this order filled continued.  The young pharmacy techs, whom I’d spoken with early on, were at least sympathetic about how time sensitive the order was.  My beef was not with them though.  It was with the lead pharmacist.  She’s the one who’s ultimately in charge.  She’s the one who can cut through the red tape and who can override the system.  But she’s also the one who guessed she could’ve pushed things through for Ronan instead of actually pushing things through.  Since it wasn’t the first time this gal had caused delays, I decided enough was finally enough.  This would be the last order she’d be allowed to manage for my son.  

And it was. 

We’ve since switched to a new pharmacy and just like that *snap fingers*, the new team has jumped through several hoops for us.  A different medication Ronan uses was about to run out right after we brought our business to them.  Where it would take days for the other group to figure everything out, the new folks had the script authorized, ordered, and available 24 hours later.  The best part?  I didn’t need to cry or yell at anyone!  I’ll pray that future pharmacy orders are handled as professionally as this most recent one was.  That’s because Ronan’s medication is vital.  He pointed that out to us just a few weeks ago one night at bedtime. 

After a rather tough day where he wanted to only be in the dark and away from everything and everybody, Ronan pointed to his prescription.  I had it sitting next to me with his pajamas and diapering items as we got settled to say family prayers.  Every day for years, I’ve loathed his meds.  I’ve loathed why we have to give them to him.  I’ve loathed the process, the people, and the problems that have stemmed from those seizures he has.  I’d love for other things – therapies, protocols, miracles – to replace the meds.  Believe me when we’ve said we’ve tried other things.  We have.  But, for now, we continue to rely on the medication.  Especially because that night before we prayed, and on subsequent other nights after other tough days, Ronan pointed to them and signed “yes help yes” while pointing to his head. 

If you know our story, you know that we aren’t quitters.  We try.  We try so hard to do everything we possibly can for Ronan.  That means reading, asking, and sometimes demanding.  I shouldn’t have to demand someone do their job, but that’s exactly what I’ve had to do with certain people, like that former pharmacist of ours.  It shouldn’t have taken 7 phone calls for her to fill a long-standing prescription that’s been exactly the same each month for over a year.  But that’s what it took to get Ronan’s meds to us last month.  Throughout the painful process of getting them, she didn’t seem to care to do her job well or right or at all.  It’s too bad.  Just like Ronan’s life depends on some of the medication he’s taking, her livelihood depends on returning customers like me.  She lost a major account when we left.  But I’d rather surround myself with people who want to help me and who put my child at the top of their list as I do.  Ronan’s worth it.  He’s worth every effort of mine.  He’s worth every tear I might need to shed while caring for him, too. 

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

MamaBear

Wow! Why does it seem that the more serious the medical-health problem, the worse the customer-client-patient service?
Glad that ultimately Ronan was served. I don't think pharmacy should be publicly outed, but def reach out to corporate. And let them read your article* and mention how many clicks AofA gets.

*If you share article with corporation, add the info Bill suggested. Your opinion piece then becomes the customer feedback it deserves to be.

Bill

So, Cathy, *what* is the name of the drug? I ask because for both opiates and benzos, and a few other drugs, "rules" have been tightened all the way around recently. I wrote "rules" because that means everything from local pharmacy procedures, State regulations, Federal regulations & Laws, Company rules, etc., Also, *what* *exactly* were some of the "problems" you described, with getting the Rx filled at that pharmacy? You never say exactly what the problems were, so we can't really judge fairly what happened. I don't like to criticize, but those 2 points are big enough that I need to make them. Otherwise, KEEP UP the GOOD WORK!

no-vac

I believe that the main problem with US pharmacies is that they are very primitive and operate like in 18-19 centuries, where pharmacists manually count and package practically anonymous pills. (The patient does not have any idea what really is these pills, unless he/she does extensive internet research comparing looks of different pills). Almost everywhere in the world prescription medications are manufacturer prepackaged (like OTC) and the pharmacists only hand them to the customers. This is instantaneous, efficient and error free, as both the patients and pharmacists can read the content on the package. If one pharmacy does not have the medication, we go to other and buy it there. Outdated US pharmacies go on pair with inferior medical care, which results in highest infant/child mortality rates of all developed countries, the sickest population in the whole world and constantly declining life expectancy of Americans. Not to mention c. 300,000 people killed yearly by prescription drugs in the US.

Shelley Tzorfas

This happens all the time particularly at chain pharmacies. It is because of the medical insurance companies more than the pharmacists. They change requirements, co-pays and policies often in the hopes that members will drop the meds or quit. Sometimes it works. Years ago pharmacists were respected and thought of as medically trained in part. Today that is no longer the case. They have no idea what is in vaccines but they shoot them anyway. They think mercury is not in flu shots and they could not be more wrong. Even when it says "Preservative Free," it still contains Thimerosal. The definition of "Thimerosal" was changed so that if it has less than .5mcg-they can claim it has none when it still has it. People who know homeopathy understand that a small amount of a substance still has a large effect. I remember in the 1990's when neighborhood drug stores were being bought out. I also remember when loads of people from foreign pharmacy schools suddenly entered. These pharmacists know even less about vaccines than the ones who went to school here. Some pharmacists are so overworked that you can see their hands shake as they count out your supply.

Jeannette Bishop

@Cathy, I'm glad you found better service, and appreciate that you made the effort. I'm appreciating more and more the value of walking (especially with an educated perspective), rather than putting up, to the extent one has the power to do so, for all of us.

@Margaret, I'll just suggest that if that if that is an intentional singling out, and if it seems like mainly the automated processes aren't happening correctly, it could be coming from outside of the pharmacy (and it wouldn't surprise me at all).

I'm really uncomfortable with the movements towards electronic health etc. record keeping (as much as I can imagine an optimization of catching problems/promoting health in a righteous world this way) and how it could be used by many wanting to buy that data. This I understand was promoted in conjunction with Obamacare, which if overturned, as it sounds like it may be...

https://youtu.be/vpxTyCnkYm0?t=1h5m28s (...or may not, I don't know if this will pan out)

...will we then (or in some other way) be able to return to a greater level of privacy or will there be no inertia to go back?


Margaret J. Jaeger

I have an autistic grandchild. They don't live with me and are not in my local vicinity, so I can't claim it's about Autism. However, my views about vaccines are posted online,,about their connection to Autism or causing flu that they're given for to confer immunity,,are also, posted and once in awhile are spoken of aloud. My pharmacy is in a grocery store. They have a service where they phone your home when the prescription is filled. Year before last, towards the end of the year, they quit phoning me. They phoned for my husband's filled notices, but not mine. I spoke to them about it a couple of times. Didn't help until Dec. of 2018. That clerk made a notation on their computer to please call. I received one call for one prescription. I've still- had to phone them to ask if my order was filled. I'm convinced someone has it in for me on a personal basis in that pharmacy, hubby says im paranoid. This is the last time I by pass and don't complain to the store manager or email their national headquarters. There must be a reason for this snubbing and it will be found out. I just can't help thinking it's something personal and possibly, to do with my expressed feelings about vaccines ..to ...someone.

Dolly

This Pharmacist should be turned in to authorities that can properly deal with her. Outing her publicly is a liability to you. Prayers that this new Pharmacy will continue to serve you and others, well.

Not an MD

Sounds like your prior lead pharmacist has a passive-aggressive personality disorder. So glad you found a replacement pharmacist who does not suffer from that.

Lo

For the life of me I cannot understand how in the medical profession, process perfection is not the goal when lives and people's well being are at stake? I understand inherent risks of surgical procedures and pharma meds, however I cannot understand how so many medical errors are tolerated due to negligence, carelessness or lack of checks or use of checks.

It makes me sick to see how often hospitals fail (in my experience) in doing the easiest things right, like providing a meal free of known and recorded allergens to the most serious, like failing to give needed meds because doctors orders for two patients were switched.

A profession which knows that stress is a great contributor to illness should do everything in its' power to keep it to a minimum, yet for some (most?), an encounter with the medical industry is one of the most stressful thing they will deal with.

Introvert

The best thing to do is to find an independently owned pharmacy. There aren't many of them -- only one in our county. And they aren't immune to mistakes, either. But the thing is, they will do anything to make it right. My pharmacist has gone above and beyond to help us, including express mailing meds to our hotel (at no charge) when a prescription didn't come in on time. Plus there is satisfaction in supporting a locally owned business.

Mark Wax

You have failed the test. Where are the names of the store and/or the persons? I have been down this road many times before. I too, have changed pharmacies. We have gone fro the proverbial "bad to worse",...... one chain store to the other, when neither give a crap about one customer. "Outing" them is the only productive thing you can do. This is only about money to the folks that own the businesses.

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