The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

“You changed my life!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 8:14 am on Sunday, August 28, 2011

Not words you hear ever day.  I can honestly say that most of my days are rather mundane drudgery.  We take in prescriptions, we pump out prescriptions.  People pick them up , whine about how much they cost, give us grief and move on.  Most of what I write about can best be appreciated by the people who share this profession: Pharmacists.  I am amazed that I have so many NON-pharmacist readers. But , I appreciate all of you.

Occasionally we get a ” Thank you”, but its rare that we get a compliment like the one above, followed by ” I am going to call the newspaper..they need to know”.  ( I really hope she doesn’t call the paper).

Lydia has been coming here to PC pharmacy for about 2 years.  Only recently have I come to know her very well.  Once she caught me just as I was closing the pharmacy and needed to pick up a prescription ( never one of my favorite patient’s moves) but I patiently rang her up and said nothing.  She told me her deceased husband was a pharmacist.  He had died from some undisclosed illness long before he should have because she is only in her late 50’s.  Its been a struggle for her financially since then.  She has never had insurance since she has been a patient of mine, so I try to be mindful of what she has to pay, and use discount cards for her pricing.  She just qualified for “disability” but somehow that doesn’t include RX insurance…something is amiss, but I can’t fix that, so I try to keep her expenses down as best as I can.

She takes a handful of meds each day, one of which is hydroxyzine, which used to be dirt cheap, but isn’t so much anymore….and she takes a lot of it.

She told me once that she has had this terrible itching and it drives her to distraction, and she has been to all kinds of doctors trying to get some help. She asked me if I had any better solutions.  I told her “honestly no,  if you have been to the best in their field, I am not sure anything I can recommend can make any difference”. and all I could do is tell her that when its really bad that cold compresses can take some of the heat off of it and tone down some of the fire in her skin.  She mentioned that sometimes she would press her arms against the cold brass of her bed and that is would help a bit, so she would try the ice towels I mentioned.

She stayed on my mind however. She has scars from scratching, and pock marks from the sores.

Two weeks ago, she called again, to order some more meds.  We had a brief prefunctory conversation and then hung up.  For no other reason than ” it had to be a God thing”,  I had a thought pop into my head and I called her back.  ” Lydia, this is PC from PC pharmacy…Have you ever heard of GLUTEN?”

I told her what it was and she told me that she has a nephew that has to be gluten free because ” it makes him sick and gives him a rash”.  She never thought it might apply to her because she has been itching for so long.. I asked her how long..and she said ” since 1978″.  I said ” Lydia,  you have nothing to  lose,  would you consider going gluten free for a month?  Just to try it?  It can’t hurt and all that itching might be food related”.  I then encouraged her to go on the internet and find out what is gluten free and eat only gluten free foods…no cheating.  I also told her that since gluten is high in the media, lots of foods are now marked gluten free including breads and pastas and its not hard to eat gluten free since there are more choices.  She wasn’t reluctant at all, after all this time, she was happy to try anything that may help.

She came into see me 5 days later.  I was busy at the time so didnt’ immediately think about our previous conversation.  Her first words to me were ” You changed my life!” and I could only say ” What?”  She said ” I haven’t itched in 4 days…that has never happened in 33 years.”.   I was stunned. She went gluten free the moment we hung up the phone.  She said the itching stopped within a day.  She then threw away everything in the house that contained wheat, barley, etc…

As grateful as she was, she was also angry…” I have been to so many doctors over the years!, I have spent so much money on medicine!  Why didn’t any of the allergists ever tell me about this?’  I didnt’ have an answer.  She then asked me..” what made you call me back last week?”  I told her ” I think I have to give credit where its due…It had to be a God thing..a thought popped into my head and I acted on it.”  Lydia wears a cross around her neck.  She knew what I meant.

It wasn’t like I had been thinking about gluten.  I hadn’t read any articles recently, and I didn’t have any recent interaction with a gluten intolerant patient.  It just kinda popped in there and I picked up the phone.

If this is for real ( and she is convinced it is) then this will go down as one of my shining moments in pharmacy.  Just don’t pin any awards on MY jacket.  I’m not taking any credit.  I was just His mouth piece.


Comment by Texas Pharmacy Chica

August 28, 2011 @ 1:00 pm


Comment by Matt M

August 28, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

Yay! Thank you for being thoughtful.

Comment by Frantic Pharmacist

August 28, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

Things like this can get you through a lot of bad days!

Comment by RxMomma

August 28, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

PC… I <3 u, seriously! I figured out back in January that i am gluten intolerant (had chronic digestive "issues", so bad that is was making working difficult) and I really think that gluten intolerance/celiac's disease, and DH are WAY under-diagnosed. You are so smart to just throw it out as a suggestion to think about and possibly follow up on.

Now you'll have to help her get gluten free drugs though….that can be tricky.I dont get a choice in what I order. and so far, all of my gluten intolerant people havent had any trouble with the drugs they have. There is so little gluten in them, if any. I can’t speak for all however.

Comment by Karen

August 28, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

wow! LOVE it when God speaks and we actually listen. Keep up the good work being His mouthpiece…

Comment by CPhT

August 28, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

Great job PC! Went gluten free early this year and never cheat, been dealing with stomach issues literally my entire life and am glad to finally NOT have a stomach ache every single day! It’s a big change but you won’t go back! Also just did a CE on Celiac disease — it takes an average of at least a decade to be correctly diagnosed with Celiac disease so even if Lydia was tested with the blood test, which is not all that accurate anyway, she probably wouldn’t have been properly diagnosed anyway!

Comment by Eileen

August 30, 2011 @ 3:46 am

Might not be blanket “gluten” – especially if she responded within hours. Dermatitis herpatiformis (the skin version of celiac disease) would usually take longer than that to clear. I have a wheat allergy and the rash is almost the same. I realised what it was when I tried an Atkins diet – no carbs = no gluten and it only came back when we were on holiday in Italy and eating pizza. But I experimented a bit and found it was only highly commercialised modern wheat that does it. I can eat spelt and kamut, pure rye and foods containing barley – and that makes everyday life a lot simpler. I still read all the labels – and boy, it’s amazing where wheat gets I can tell you! In Australia, at the Rock, I ordered risotto in a restaurant – and itched! In the store next day I examined a risotto “pack” – it contained wheat. Bit of a giveaway with regard to the supposed “better” restaurant.

But tremendous thought and well done for calling her back. I met someone in the UK who had itched all her life too until age 60-ish. I never did get a proper dx from dermatology (when it came to the biopsy required “it’s not cancer so it isn’t important” was the comment made) but decided that the advice from the local gut specialist (a colleague of my husband’s) would do fine: if you can control your symptoms just by avoiding wheat don’t worry whether it is celiac disease or not – you are not going to put yourself at any real risks longterm.

Comment by Loren Pechtel

August 30, 2011 @ 6:14 am

I keep hearing about people discovering food problems after many years or a lifetime. I’m amazed the medical community doesn’t hunt for them more.

Sure, there’s no convenient lab test but it seems to me that faced with any such long-standing and unpleasant condition that probing with an elimination diet makes sense. Some days I think the doctors don’t believe any world exists outside their lab tests.

Comment by Mimi

August 30, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

My friend just found out shes allergic to gluten after many years of it being misdiagnosed for some other stomach problem. Its amazing! She said it changed her life too! Great post!

Comment by In the know

September 6, 2011 @ 6:33 am

The reason she doesn’t yet have Rx coverage with SSDI is that you have to be on SSDI for two years before the prescription coverage kicks in. So she has the normal medicare coverage for doctor’s fees, but not prescriptions.

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