Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Dark Side of Pharmacy

As the sun covered the ground with its rays in an attempt to perpetrate the first warm day of the year, we sat plugging along in the pharmacy. It was a typical day, nothing out of the ordinary.

Lunch came and went. The order came and went. Soon it was about three o'clock and we successfully filled over 200 prescriptions. For the time being, there was nothing in the queue so we all took a chance to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the young girl in the hoodie come through the back door of the pharmacy. It was nothing unusual for this time of year and I paid no attention to it. In the midst of discussing the some random fact I heard a voice murmur,

"I'm so sorry."

I looked towards the direction of that voice, which just so happened to be directly in front of our consultation window. There stood the girl in the hoodie with my manager. And a knife pressed to her neck.

"Here," she said and handed me a piece of paper. Hastfully scribbled in blue ink on that crumpled piece of paper said the following words:

Give me all of your Oxycontin and no one gets hurt. Do not call the police.
I looked up to our pharmacist, our eyes locked and he immediately knew what was wanted. Sadly, this was not his first time in this situation.

Together we walked over to our controls cabinet, unlocked it, and began emptying the requested bottles into a white sack. No words were spoken. No words needed to be spoken.

He stayed back to relock the cabinet as I carried the sack towards the window. The girl still stood there, her hands shaking. As I gave her the bag she slowly walked backwards, my manager still in hand. A few feet back from the counter she pushed her away and darted out the door.

Out of instinct I flew out of the pharmacy after her. I wasn't thinking of what I would do, it was just a reaction. By the time I ran out the door she was in a car speeding away.

Walking back into the pharmacy everyone was frozen. I stepped back into the pharmacy and hit our silent alarm. From some direction, to this day I do not know who said it, came the phrase,

"What the fuck."

The whole experience was slightly surreal, almost as if you have stepped back and are watching a movie of yourself. Adrenaline kicks in and saves you from completely breaking down... at least at that moment.

Why do I share this?

So often we share stories about addicts and crazy customers and do so in humorous tone. The thing is, some of them are really not all that humorous. It's merely a way to cope with what we see on a daily basis.

As cliche as it may sound, that day a part of me died. The innocent part that still believed things of that nature did not really occur. It was almost as if part of the joy I see in the world died a little bit that day.

Now when ever I see someone with a hoodie pulled up over their head, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It's almost an innate response now. Little quirks that previously were ignored are now highlighted with the possibility of a repeat occurrence.

It is really funny how something like that can change you. It's one of the few experiences that I really do not find any humor at all.

Why haven't I told this story after having this blog for well over two years and over 300 posts? I really have no idea. Why do I share this story now? In prepping for an upcoming interview one of the questions asked, "Name a moment in which you excelled in a difficult situation."

Honestly the only answer I can think of is that day. After the event I spent the next three hours defusing various aspects of the situation. That included driving to the location where the police eventually found them and identifying them.

There is something insanely sobering about sitting in the back of a police car when they remove another person, with guns drawn, in order for you to identify them. Especially when you considered what you just witnessed mere hours ago.

It was the only time in my life I have ever felt truly proud of how I conducted myself. And its the only time that completely answers that question.

I guess the real reason I've decided to finally share this is so that those of you who do visit this blog realize that it is not always fun and games behind the pharmacy counter. Sure we can joke about situations, but in the end not everything is truly as humorous as it seems.

That kind of goes against everything I believe in as a person. Ironic is it not?


The Redheaded Pharmacist said...

Your words are very true. It is a dangerous world we live in and working retail means you are in the front lines. We have the two things bad guys want together in one place: drugs and money. It sounds like no one was hurt in the situation you went through. Consider yourself very lucky. I'm wondering if there is serious issues with workplace safety among retail pharmacies. We all have to be careful every day at work. And it isn't a laughing matter at all.

Ashleigh said...

That is NUTS! That's pretty much all I can say at this point. Stay safe out there, and next time, hit the alarm sooner! :)

Old MD Girl said...


Lipstick said...

Thank you for sharing. I'm sure this wasn't easy to write (and remember) in such detail.

Anonymous said...

I'm a chronic pain patient. Opiod medication has been the difference, for me, between just sitting there trying not to move so as not to make it hurt worse day after day after day and being able to do things again. I saw a pain specialist for years before we tried opiods, and the last 3 of those years were constant unremitting agony.

Every month I am surprised that my pharmacist has the stuff in stock and that I don't have to wait an extra day for a special order to be placed and filled. What I take isn't all that great recreationally, I'm told, but still.

Thank you.

pharmacyonline said...

This is a world of so called social animals we now live in! what could have been done here? nothing!retail is not an easy job for sure!

Anonymous said...

That's what happens when doctors prescribe opiates like candy.

Sara said...

Ours had a gun.. and he showed it. Told us there was a bomb (there wasn't) hit up another pharmacy (got more drugs). Of course, the drugs of choice were Opana and Oxycontin. And ironically, script increased since then for those drugs (I wants to get what that robber gots!)

It's easy to look back or look from the outside and say "hit the alarm sooner" "call the cops sooner" but this job doesn't pay enough or even give you enough self-respect to consider risking your life, your coworkers or even some customers lives to be a hero.

The funny part? If there is one there was a customer behind the robber who had no clue what happened, along with the couple waiting in the pick up area. In fact, all this happened in less than 2 minutes.

Oh, forgot to mention.. we aren't allowed to have a "panic button."

Good luck to all of you, and hopefully this doesn't happen to anyone else.. but it will because desperate times call for desperate measures.. and when doctors prescribe opiates like candy (to quote above) and people can't get it soon enough, a rash of robberies on a normal sunday afternoon happens (to about 5 pharmacies in a 30 mile radius in a months time)