I took a nasty spill the other night and hurt my shoulder. I wasn’t in severe pain, but was in enough discomfort that I thought it best to see the doctor. “Pulled or strained deltoid,’ he said. “Nothing serious. Restrict movement for a few days with a sling and here’s a prescription for painkillers.”
Went to Walgreen’s directly from the doctor’s office and was told at the pharmacy that I had a fifteen to twenty minute wait. No biggie, I thought. I’ll look for the sling in the interim.
I don’t know who decides how to stage merchandise for the pharmacy chain, and I’m sure there’s a precise logic behind it, but, there are two aisles where one finds similar items for orthopedic issues. In one aisle there are all sorts of pain relief creams and ointments and a number of knee, wrist and ankle braces and the other has other related items like neck braces, back braces, walking canes and crutches and the like.
After a couple of quick walk throughs of both aisles plus one with a Walgreen’s employee there was no sign of a sling. My painkillers wouldnt be ready yet so I began a more thorough search. I knew exactly what I was looking for – packaging and all – because Dad had one. I had done this exact same search years ago with my father.
As I poured over the multitude of items before me I realized, right there in aisle 6 of my local Walgreen’s, that Dad had almost one of each of these things I’d been sifting through looking for the sling. Knee braces? Check. Wrist braces? Check. Back brace? Check. Neck brace. Orthopedic socks. Crutches. Walking canes? At least three. Walker coasters and rubber tips. Splints. Pain relief patches. Ace bandages. Bedpans and urinals. Heating pads.
My heart sank. Dad spent the final few years of his life accumulating medical supplies. Accumulating maladies for which he needed to accumulate the medical supplies. Dad’s final days consisted of a quick trip to the supermarket for a newspaper and daily staples and a trip to La Farmacia, because Mom’s refills were ready. Because the pain in his hip had worsened. Because he ran out of glucose strips. Because the blood pressure monitor needed new batteries. Because of a bad reaction to a new med. Because Mom had erutos again. Because my bed ridden Tio Luis had run out of bed pads.
Dad must have gone to the pharmacy every day. And when he could no longer drive, it was me. Or my sister. “Las Muchachitas de la farmacia,” as he called his pharmacists, came to his funeral.
I found the sling in its familiar packaging, the music over the speakers stopped. “Mr. Prieto,” the store intercom called out. “Please come to the pharmacy. Your prescription is ready.“