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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : November 2006
professional of the counter pharmacy professional updates Legless on the run The wry side ICHAEL Hammond always had valid prescriptions for Mersyndol Forte, Valium, Efexor and Temazepan but he took them so frequently that I began to feel uncomfortable the moment I saw him manoeuvre his wheelchair into the phar- macy. I was constantly amazed that he could take such quanti- ties of medication and stay awake. But you can never tell what it takes to make another person’s life of suffering bearable. Michael was a Vietnam Veteran who had lost both legs to the war. No respecter of seasons, he always wore a Hawaiian short- sleeved shirt—his style choice was always something a couple of sizes too large. His jeans were twisted at the bases of his fore- shortened legs, making them look like a pair of sausages. His hair was unkempt, tousled and tied back in a ponytail. It was always his habit to address me by what he thought was my given name and to speak to me in such an effusively friendly a manner that I was always suspicious he was about to sell me something. ‘Hello, Peter.’ He rolled his chair into the pharmacy. ‘Hello, Graham.’ M On other days I was John and every once in a while I was David. On those days I would reward him by calling him Michael. On a morning that was filled with the injured and walking wounded Michael propelled his wheel chair into the pharmacy in such a way that anyone brave enough to stand their ground would have become another casualty of war. ‘Morning, Graham,’ he shouted. I silently cursed—he had got in first. ‘Hello, Peter.’ Michael had been preceded into the pharmacy by Carmel McBride, facilitator for MMR. She was person of elegance, vital- ity and a commitment to MMR that bordered on the spiritual. But she had the attribute of knowing where every pharmacy in New South Wales kept its tea and coffee and had a list of each pharmacist’s preference. As she plunged the coffee I continued working. In occasional gaps between prescriptions, I told her about Michael and after a while she peered round the corner of the dispensary. At that moment the world entered a temporal schism. Michael 32 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL 87 NOVEMBER 2006 Ph armac y Tale s b y David Pay * froze. Carmel froze. Bolts of electrically charged particles passed between them. Michael, who had been in process of handing in his prescription, refused to let go of it. The shop assistant tugged at her end. ‘He’s not a Vietnam Vet,’ said Carmel. ‘That’s Legless.’ On a night that had featured excessive drug taking, Legless had suffered defenestration either by falling, being thrown or attempt- ing flight from the fifth floor window of a block of flats. He had lain unconscious in a flowerbed overnight and through half the next day. When he was eventually found he was taken to hospi- tal where he lost both legs to amputation. Carmel had encountered Legless during her former life as the owner of a Sydney suburban pharmacy. He had been a regular customer who only brought in prescriptions for benzodiazpines and since they all came from different doctors the staff always telephoned the GPs before supply. The friendly association came to an end when he brought in a prescription for Rivotril from a local psychiatrist and the staff phoned the doctor. The prescrip- tion was a forgery. While some of the staff engaged Legless in casual conversation, others phoned the police. The discussion turned to the origin of the prescription and the staff told Legless they knew it was not legitimate. He shrugged. ‘Cost me $10 from a mate at the pub.’ For Legless the game was up. The police were at the doorway. Shoppers stepped back and made a corridor as the procession of uniformed officers wheeled Legless out of the pharmacy. As the temporal window closed and we returned to real time, the battle between the shop assistant and Legless for final control of his prescription reached its climax. Legless prevailed. He spun his wheelchair and headed for the doorway, his hair flowing back- wards like a mustang on wheels. ‘I think MMR just lost us a customer,’ I said. ‘Perhaps I’ll look back through some of his old prescriptions—I might even phone a few of the doctors.’ * David Pay is a former community pharmacy owner and continues to do locum work.