The worst thing about Poverty is the helplessness; having a need and not being able to cater for that need. As a matter of fact, the shame of the reality of not having enough never actually arises until a need comes along and you cannot pay. But then again, depending on the necessity at hand, getting past the “shame phase” could be only a matter of seconds. Snapping back to reality to find possible means to solve the basic problem.

Say for instance, a mother (let’s call her Mummy B) walks in to a Pharmacy to get medicine for her sick child, only to find out she cannot afford it. Under normal circumstances, such mother barely spends anytime (especially at that moment) considering the shame of her lack. Her mind is more fixed on finding a solution to her immediate problem.

However enough said, this article is not about Mummy B, at least not entirely. It is a hypothetical attempt to assess things from the Pharmacists point of view, as apparently there is quite a number of attempts to show the narrative from the woman’s point of view. We see it every day, in movies, in books, even in narrations from family and friends. So, this time around, we’ll assess from the other guy (the Pharmacist’s) perspective.

Before anything, it is only fair we start with some sort of introduction to background of the “other guy”. His name is A, but many people don’t know that. Addressing him professionally would mean referring to him as Pharmacist A but everybody in the neighbourhood just calls him “Doctor” basically because he knows a lot about drugs and the body, he always wears a clean white overall and he is all most of them have ever known when it comes to medical treatment. But A is not a doctor, although earlier in his life he had wanted to be, but fate had other plans for him and so did JAMB. So, after his third attempt at the UTME exams, he applied for a change of course and this time around, his marks were just high enough to get him into the alternative he had chosen. He got Pharmacy in a Nigerian University. If getting in was hard, getting out was certainly harder for A as the course itself was more than he bargained for. So much that he had to spend an extra year in the Faculty as he had repeated his first year in the Faculty. But he eventually got out and after a few years experimenting, he decided he was going to settle in Community practice. After all, they were said to be the richest of all and with the amount of bills that waited for him at the end of the month, he certainly could use some of that wealth.
The thing about being a community Pharmacist is that there are three basic identities you must assume; The Professional, the Businessman and the Human being. Luckily, the first two parts are covered in school (if you paid attention of course). And as much as school might not have given an almighty formula on how to successfully merge the first two identities, it at least prepares your mind for it. The third identity is the heart of the first two; it carries all the emotions they don’t. And as subtle as it may seem, it is also important.
Sometimes, all you have to be on the job is humane. Interestingly, the Community Pharmacist often as to be all three at once.

So, for instance when a patient comes to complain of a headache; the professional worries about the condition and the most efficient treatment plan, the Businessman worries about making optimal profit from the situation (selling at optimal prices, ensuring customer satisfaction, disposing products close to expiry etc.) and the human being simply sees a man in pain and works on the two mindsets of the Pharmacist to make that pain go away.

But today, Mummy B walks into Pharmacist A’s shop to get medicines for her sick child. The first point of action is communication, she tells “Doctor” as she calls him what the problem is. Her child who is about 6 years old has been running a fever for hours and hasn’t been able to eat anything.

At this point, A’s mind begins to wander on the most efficient treatment plan, the businessman in him simultaneously processing the options to consider for optimal profit. He ends up recommending a branded Antimalarial and antibiotic with Ibuprofen and a multivitamin syrup. But Mummy B, fully aware of her fiscal realities firstly asks what this treatment plan costs and once it is summed up, she knows she can’t afford it. She then pleads with “Doctor” to give something cheaper. That’s when the “Human being” in A begins to gain dominance, not just because of Mummy B’s plea but because he also sees it. He sees the helplessness in her eyes, though shrouded by the slight shame on her face, it goes deep down into the depths of the lacrimal. It’s like crying but without any tears.

He wants to help, after all he knows the child in question. She had come to the Pharmacy a few times with her mother and as he often does with some of the children from the neighbourhood, he had gifted her some tablets of masticable Vitamin C. But compassion cannot buy food, it certainly cannot pay salaries. So, he tries to help in another way, he’d change the branded drugs to cheaper generic alternatives. This would significantly bring down the cost of the drugs, now all he had to do was reassure Mummy B that the drugs would be effective. But still she could not afford it. However, knowing that any further swap might cause a significant reduction in quality of treatment, she’d plead with Doctor to allow her come back to balance up tomorrow.

Reluctant at first, he’d eventually budge and instruct the Pharmacy assistant to record the debt alongside the countless others in the book of creditors, a book he had tried countless times to close forever. But here he was again, watching another customer who was supposed to profit him walk away with some part of his money, uncertain of her return.
And as he tried to shift his gaze to something else, his eyes would fall on the seemingly ineffective sign he had put up just last week.

Although he had violated the words he inscribed on the sign again, he felt satisfied that he had once again done all he could to remove another patient’s silent tears even though he knew his reality were as emotionless as the words that stood staring back at him, “NO CREDIT TODAY, COME TOMORROW”

Story Submitted by Ojelabi Jesujoba from Nigeria’s Megacity, Lagos.

**Important notice: All stories are shared with the full permission of the author with the intent to inform, educate and entertain the reader. They do not in any way suggest what the standards of practice are). Pharmacy Hub reserves the right to all stories and will edit as required to serve the purposes of The Hub.
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