Monday, October 19, 2009

In Which I Save A. Peevie's Life. Sort Of.

I saved A. Peevie's life tonight. Kind of.

It was nothing, really.

I went to Walgreen's to pick up one of his prescriptions, and before I left the store, I checked the 'scrip as I almost always do, to make sure I was getting the drug that I needed--Verapamil--and not one of his many other prescriptions. You remember Verapamil, right? The one that he accidentally overdosed himself on a few months back? Yes, that one.

The label on the pill bottle said "Verapamil," and that was good enough for me. Apparently, I should have looked a little closer, because when I got home and started to give A. Peevie his medicinal cocktail, I realized that they had given me 120 mg tablets instead of 120 mg time release capsules.

I briefly considered giving him the tablet, and then I realized that with the tablet, he'd be getting his 24-hour dose all at once. "Hmmm," I thought. "That might actually stop his heart. Bad idea."

As I climbed back into the Minivan of Salvation and drove back to Walgreens to make the exchange, I worked on my Indignant and Horrified Expression and my Speech of Potential Death Averted, No Thanks To You, Walgreens. What if I had been just tired and distracted enough to not think twice about giving him that pill? What if I hadn't been home, and Mr. Peevie was in charge of meds, and he didn't know the difference? Or if a babysitter had been in charge, and wouldn't know by looking at the pills that they were wrong?

At the pharmacy counter, I mentioned the itty-bitty problem of the Right Medicine, Wrong Dose/Delivery to the concerned but powerless pharm-tech.

"This dose might have killed him," I said gently but firmly. "The pharmacist needs to know that someone made a serious mistake."

"Oh, did the doctor write it wrong?" she said innocently.

"Um, no," I said. "This was a refill of a long-standing prescription that my son has been taking for years. Someone here made a mistake."

"I'm very sorry," she said sincerely, "I'll speak to the pharmacist about it." A few minutes later she reassured me that they were getting right on it, and would have the correct pills ready quickly.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. Customers came and went. I played Sudoku and finished solving a medium-difficulty game. Finally, after 15 minutes had gone by with nary a word, I stood at the counter again.

"Can I help you?" asked a boy pharm-tech (BPT) with a bored expression on his face.

"Yes," I said firmly and with a skosh less gentleness than the last time. "I'm waiting for a replacement on a prescription that was filled incorrectly the first time. The tech told me it would be ready in a few minutes. It's been 15." There was talking, scurrying, and PA announcing for an "exchange in pharmacy." Finally, BPT handed the new bag of pills over to a store manager, who began punching buttons on his register.

"That will be $4.78," he said.

"Noooo," I said, "I already paid for the prescription once. I don't believe I owe any additional money."

"Ah," he said, and punched a bunch more buttons on his register. The whole Accidental Death Averted Situation seemed to be a non-starter, and I was nonplussed. I prayed a quick prayer asking for wisdom, and then I started kicking ass. Nicely.

"I don't want to be difficult, here," I said, "but this was a pretty serious mistake that was made, and everyone seems to be pretty casual about it. This dose could potentially have killed my son."

Well, didn't that get his attention! Store Manager stopped punching buttons and looked back and forth at the two prescription bags in his hands. I waited.

"They're both the same medication," he said, confused.

"Yes," I said, "But one is time-release capsules, and the other is a full 120 mg dose tablet." He looked back and forth at the labels again. "He would be getting the full dose all at once," I explained. "My son weighs 75 pounds. It would be a serious overdose."

One beat. Another beat. Then: "Ahhh. Time-release capsules," he said.

"As I said, I'm not trying to be difficult, here," I reiterated. "I just want to make sure that everyone understands the potential seriousness of the mistake so that it doesn't happen again."

"I will definitely talk to the pharmacist," Store Manager said. "And I'm very, VERY sorry for the mistake and for your trouble. Very, VERY sorry."

That was more like it--and that's all I wanted, really--someone in charge, someone with actual responsibility to acknowledge that a very big and potentially very dangerous mistake had been made. Store Manager started punching more buttons on his register; he popped open his drawer and took out some money.

"I don't think I get any money back," I said stupidly--why am I turning down cash? "I didn't pay too much for the prescription."

"No," said Store Manager, handing me $5 and change, "It's because of our mistake and your trouble. We're covering the cost of the prescription."

Oh. Well, then. I accept.

But I'm still going to call the cardiologist tomorrow and find out what would have been the expected outcome if we had accidentally given A. Peevie the tablet instead of the prescribed capsule.

And then I might be writing a letter to Mr. Walgreen himself.

No comments: