Traveling the extra mile

So where do you get your medication?

Heart Parents and Heart Warriors know our pharmacy like we know the backs of our hands – it seems that we almost live there! It seems no matter how hard we try, there’s just no way to get everything coordinated. Everything runs out at different times, and with eleven different drugs, it seems that I am at the drugstore two or three times a month. So you may be surprised to learn that I travel 68 miles (one way) to fill my prescriptions.

That’s a pretty nice trip, and yes, there are drug stores that are closer. As you may guess, there’s a reason I travel that far.

In the summer of 2002 I was a patient at Emory University Hospital after having a pacemaker implanted. I had been in heart failure at my community hospital, they had admitted me and placed me in the ICU until I stabilized. Four days later, things were getting worse and I was moved to Emory. So now I was in Emory’s ICU recovering from the pacemaker implant when I had a small stroke.

They had gotten me up and sat me in a chair, and since I was less than 24 hours post surgery, I wasn’t sat the top of my game. My foot fell asleep; but I figured it was just twisted under me at a bad angle. I certainly didn’t feel like moving it around. A nurse walked by and stopped, looking in my little cubicle. “Smile at me,” she said.

The next thing I know this five foot tall nurse was throwing me back in the bed. “I think you need to lie back down,” she said, and a moment later someone was checking my eyes with one of those little flashlights.

My right side “turned off” for three days – and that is the best way to describe it. I couldn’t feel or move anything on the right side of my body. I didn’t “fight back” – I really couldn’t get my head around it. Stroke? Couldn’t be… all that I knew was that my foot had fallen asleep. I hadn’t felt anything else, no problems breathing, didn’t feel any heart pain or funny beats. Nothing.

Then as suddenly as it turned off, my body turned back on. My doc asked me to squeeze her hand on the fourth morning, and without thinking my brain sent the proper signals to my right hand. And this time it worked!

“Whoa! Do that again!” I could move, I felt pain… it was working but it was like my system had rebooted. Everything worked, but my right side wasn’t following orders. I was assured that this was pretty normal and that good Physical Rehabilitation could get everything back in working order. I did a week of rehab at Emory- their plan was to get me started on the path to getting better, once that was established I could be transferred to a facility closer to home to continue my rehabilitation.

That day quickly came. I was able to stand and walk just a couple of steps (with help) but they helped me out of the wheelchair and into our van. Emory’s Rehabilitation Unit and one of their “Ambassadors” (Social Workers) had been in contact with The Big Rehabilitation Hospital close to home, and they had my records, knew that I was “medically fragile”, and were prepared to evaluate me and make a rehab plan. I’m only going to identify them The Big Rehabilitation Hospital (TBRH) and that’s all – you’ll see why in a moment.

We got to TBRH and dad dropped me and mom off – he was going home and make sure all was ok, and check on our house and the pets before returning to pick us up. The nurse who met us was friendly and things were going well until she said “Let’s get you to your room.”

Whoa! Timeout… on our end in Atlanta, we were under the impression that there was going to be an evaluation and then the plan would be decided. No one had said anything about being admitted as soon as we arrived.

“Oh, we received your records and looked them over, it’s all planned out!” At the same moment she’s pushing my wheelchair towards my room. Hold  on, wait just a moment… you guys understand that my docs want –

“We’re TBRH, we cure everybody! You’ll be in good hands!”

We wanted her to slow down, take a breath, listen to us – we had been told about this evaluation (which we assumed that we would be a part of and have some input into) and told to take it nice and slow until the pacer incisions were healed, and this nurse was talking about hitting the ground running. And her response to everything seemed to be “We’re TBRH, we can cure anybody!”

“Wait just a damn minute!” – that had come out of my momma’s mouth! “We want to talk to a supervisor.”

The nurse looked a bit miffed but did as we asked, and it wasn’t very long before the supervisor appeared. He listened, but I had already been evaluated – sight unseen. As soon as my medical records had come in, they had put me on a rehab track –

That’s it, I said. My voice wasn’t working very well because of the stroke, and it took me a long time to say even a simple sentence. It sounds like I’ve been placed on a preplanned course of treatment. That worries me.

Well, you don’t have to stay here if you don’t agree with our policies, he said.

That’s what we’ll do. When my dad gets back we’ll go home, and I’ll call my Cardiology team. If my doctors say this is OK with them, we’ll come back here.

Well, you can’t come back tomorrow, he said, no one will be in the front office. You can lose track of time in a hospital pretty quickly; it took me a moment to realize that the next day would be July 4th.

We figured a little over an hour for dad to get home, about 30 minutes to check everything and feed the animals if they needed it, and an hour back. During the time he was gone, the nurse brought dinner in for my almost-roommate.

“Since you aren’t a patient here, we don’t have anything for you,” she said. That very well could have been the rules or a TBRH policy, but the way she said it sounded a lot like two can play this game, bub. Or I could have just been overly sensitive after the “evaluation” confusion.

Dad got back and we told him the entire story. “Do you know if he has had his evening medications?” Dad asked the nurse.

She shook her head. “TBRH does not provide drugs to non-patients.”

The next thing I know, I’m back in the van and we are burning rubber for a big box retailer about a mile away. I didn’t even get out of the van – how could I, I was barely moving – but my parents rushed in and got to the Pharmacy counter about 3 minutes before closing time.

“I need to get fourteen different medications for my son, who was released from the hospital today. Can you help me?” (I wrote eleven at the top of the page; thankfully I’ve been able to drop a few since this happened).

“They didn’t prescribe the drugs?” the Pharmacist asked, incredulously.

“Not their policy,” Daddy said, skipping the long explanation.

“No problem,” the druggist answered, even though she was just moments from the end of her day. And that is why we travel almost 70 miles to fill my prescriptions… because they were willing to help when I needed them.

I debated if I should write this post or not – it’s human nature to present yourself in the best light possible, especially if you are the one telling the story.  We don’t look very good, and neither does TBRH. I could have been confused , tired, still not thinking right because of the stroke, or just plain wrong. Maybe a little of each. It’s been seven years and I still don’t know.

But the Pharmacy did go Above and Beyond the call of duty, and it is really appreciated. Thank you for helping a customer!

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One Response to “Traveling the extra mile”

  1. Lisa@ All That and a Box of Rocks Says:

    I totally understand! We drive all the way to the children’s hospital for ALL of the kids’ meds. When Eli was taking all the meds for his arrythmias, it was the only place that we trusted.

    And now, it’s just easier to have everyone’s meds and medical records in the same place. So all the kids go the the ped. clinic that is associated with the Univ of TN and in the same building as the Cardiology clinic.

    They take care of us.

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