“My son has cystic fibrosis. He was just born and we are leaving the neonatal intensive care unit today.” Those were the first words I spoke to our neighborhood pharmacist as I picked up Major's first bottle of digestive enzymes.
We were so fresh out of the hospital that we hadn't even gone home yet -- straight to the pharmacy! Our pharmacist Keri's warm smile turned sympathetic, and then she got to work. She went over how the enzymes would work, what Major's daily maximum number of pills would be and how to administer them. She then asked me what other questions I could think of.
The conversation with Keri was my first time dealing with CF on my own outside of the hospital walls. Driving from the hospital to the pharmacy, I knew that everything would change when I got home. I would no longer be only a new mom, I would be a new mom to a child with CF. I felt scared and lonely. The smile on Keri's face told me that she understood, and the patience she showed me that day prepared me to get back in the car and begin my new life.
Although Major is one of many customers for our pharmacy team, he takes a lot of their time. They never make me feel that way, though. For example, when Major was about 4 months old, he required a pretty nasty-tasting antibiotic. As a brand new mom, I was tearful about his unwillingness to take the medicine because I knew that he might wind up being hospitalized if he refused to take it.
I called Keri for advice. Instead of giving me a few tips over the phone, she told me to bring my baby into the store and assured me that we would figure it out together. Keri spent an hour with Major and me, trying different flavors before mixing grape with the medicine he required. There was a lot riding on him swallowing the medicine -- if he didn't, we would have been admitted into the hospital so that Major could get the antibiotic intravenously.
Major finally swallowed that grainy medication and was able to get over his illness at home. Had he been hospitalized, it would have meant time away from work for me, and Major would have spent more time away from his new home, where he can roam freely, and confined in his hospital room day and night.
But this isn't the only way that Keri and her team have played a key role in Major's CF care. Because of the germs that Major cultures in his lungs, we typically need a rather uncommon and costly antibiotic when he has a prolonged cough. It isn't one that any pharmacy in town has on hand. However, Keri and her staff know that when Major is prescribed something, time is of the essence. Even though it doesn't necessarily benefit the grocery store's bottom line, Keri has made the decision to keep Major's antibiotic on hand. Per her recommendation, our grocery store is willing to carry the medication overhead to do the right thing for Major.
By having this particular antibiotic on hand, Major can begin taking it the same day it is prescribed and, therefore, recover faster. Without this same-day availability, Major would have to wait overnight and potentially decline during that timeframe. Keeping this medicine at the pharmacy means a faster return to not only good health but also school and regular activities -- and it means the world to our family.
With the volume of medications being prescribed for Major, we have many questions. Keri and her team have never hesitated to spend time on the phone sorting out how certain medications are administered. Whether it's a refill, a new medication, questions about dosing or something rarer, our pharmacy works very closely with our CF clinic to get the right items into Major's hands. Members of Major's CF care team have even commented on how fabulous our pharmacy staff is. Our pharmacy is an integral part of our care team.
Above all else -- as if anything could be better than what I've already shared -- I've found a true friend in Keri. Keri and her team love hearing about all the news from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, including medications in the pipeline and most recently the approval of Orkambi for 6-year-olds. They've been waiting for the news with us! She cares about our family and “gets me” as a mom. We have gotten to know each other quite well over the past two years. My family has a life outside of cystic fibrosis and she has a life outside of the pharmacy. Getting to know more about her and connecting with the entire team there has been great. They say it takes a village to raise a child with CF, and this group is a big part of ours.