A Disappointment Reminds Me of the Systemic Gaps in Healthcare

A trip to the pharmacy doesn't go as planned for columnist Kristin Entler

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by Kristin Entler |

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“Want to go for a ride in the car?” I ask my Australian shepherd and poodle mix, Azzie. It’s been a few months since I last trimmed his fur, so it’s grown out to the length that makes him look like a fuzzy Muppet. He wags his tail and pants in loud huffs in what I assume is an affirmative response.

I grab his leash and we load up in the car.

This trip is, more or less, spontaneous. I didn’t wake up with plans to go to the pharmacy today. But I did have an early morning telehealth appointment where we adjusted the dose of my antidepressant, which I started taking for a variety of mental health symptoms.

The reasons for the dose adjustment are varied and largely personal, and while there are aspects I don’t feel I need to withhold, I don’t have words for them yet. Lately, when I reach in the word bank, I come up with empty hands.

My mind has felt like echoes in the darkness recently; I know there are words and ideas, but they’re all shadows. I can’t catch sight of anything in particular. There haven’t been any narratives I’ve felt safe enough to spin.

As a Master of Fine Arts student and a columnist, this obviously hasn’t been good for my productivity. Then responsibilities pile up and I freeze. I’m perpetually behind on work.

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So my clinician agreed we should up my meds. And since I’m hungry and can’t find words to put on the many pages in my life demanding a story, I’m giving myself a break to visit the pharmacy and grab lunch, hoping food will motivate me to continue the momentum.

As I round the corner of the pharmacy, I glance at the dashboard clock and a realization hits. I roll up to the drive-thru window and, yes, the pharmacy has just closed for its daily lunch break.

A minor inconvenience points to bigger issues

I want to be clear: I don’t blame the pharmacists or technicians for taking a lunch break. I understand the labor it takes to do a customer service job and the precious relief the half-hour break brings. Plus, as a regular patron of the pharmacy, I am well aware of when that break takes place.

But as a graduate student, I only have short windows of time where I can pop over to the pharmacy. I’ll now have to circle back to this side of town another day — an unfortunate loss of time. While the half-hour excursion is arguably not a lot of time, these trips add up, and the reality is that not everyone has the same time in a day.

Often, disabled people and other people with marginalized identities have to spend much of their day planning for and fighting back against systemic inequities in healthcare — not to mention the time it takes just to manage and treat our illnesses.

The pharmacy didn’t always close daily for a lunch break. This is a new development since long COVID-19 has cut workforces and the ongoing pandemic continues to alter the way we move through the world.

While I don’t blame the individuals who work at the pharmacy for taking the time allotted to them for lunch, I do think we have a responsibility to look at and discuss the underlying systemic faults that mean I’m coming home without my medication. Between cystic fibrosis, my other chronic illnesses, and the demands of my school schedule, it’ll be a few days before I’m able to return to the pharmacy.

Still, the small trip isn’t a total bust. I stop for a greasy drive-thru burger on the way home, and the girls working the window fawn over Azzie, who gladly hops into the front seat for attention and the small handful of bacon they give him.

With lunch, at least we don’t return home empty-handed. I feel lucky that I at least have enough medication to hold me until I have time to return.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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