Finding a Medicine to Cure Despair

List of drugs by medical recipe.

By Fabiana del Valle

HAVANA TIMES – My cell phone started ringing at 5 a.m. and my body just wanted to stick to the mattress. The best thing I could have done was pretend I hadn’t heard it and sleep a few more hours, but I was already awake, and the damn device continued its litany.

“Hey, listen, I’m in line at the drugstore, the medicine’s already arrived. I found you a place in the line, but you have to come right away. As soon as the truck arrives, I have to go to work. Hurry!”

My hoarse voice could only articulate an “OK”. I took the news in slow motion, despite the urgency. It is normally the day of the month that I hate the most, I am officially allergic to wrinkles. But it is a task that I cannot avoid, my parents’ medicine is important. The drugs they need haven’t arrived for months, and when they do, there aren’t too many and I never get in time to buy them.

I had to leave a few things ready before setting off on an adventure that I was sure would take my whole morning. I don’t like waking my mom up, let alone at this time of the day, but when I’m not around she has to prepare my little girl for school.

By the time I got to the pharmacy it looked like a rough sea. While I was sleeping, other people had been lining up since 3am. So, despite the benevolent soul that had made room for me in the line, there were already quite a few people in front of me. Not to mention the tags, there’s always a couple in each row.

The pharmacist arrived early, but she had to wait for the doctor in the GP’s office before she could start dispensing it. She must give him a list of medications which reach her every month. These are the drugs that require a medical prescription.

You can only use this prescription to buy at this pharmacy. That is, if someone goes to a doctor’s appointment with a skin condition that requires a specific drug and that drug is not available at the pharmacy, they are screwed. This is because no other pharmacy in the municipality can give it to you, even if it has some. Things that only happen here …

The good thing about a line is how entertaining it can sometimes be. You meet people you haven’t seen in a while. You laugh or get sad with the stories they tell you. For example, my friend Monica found out that day that her husband, from whom she had recently separated, was already seeing someone else. Not just anyone though, notice, it was a woman she knew and should see quite often.

She told me the story between tears streaming down her cheeks. I showed support with her pain and the hours went by pretty quickly. However, the uncertainty of whether there would be enough medicine for everyone is growing.

An elderly woman was sitting next to me, she kept complaining about the pain in her legs which seemed swollen and veined. She was one of those who had taken her place in the line at 3 am and she still had to wait a long time for her turn.

People thronged in front of the doctor’s office, hoping to get a prescription. My friend couldn’t stop crying, she didn’t understand how this man who had promised to set up his “hunting zone” away from her, got involved with someone she knew.

Someone said that almost no blood pressure medication had arrived, that they were only going to give half the treatment so that everyone could get it. Another month without Captopril for my mom!

“Look, see how this dog is laughing? This is exactly what this woman looks like, ”whispered Monica to me, showing me a skinny female dog in heat, who was followed by three dogs. The animals continued their game of seduction between the feet of those who stood in the sun in front of the doctor’s office, ignoring his words.

It was then that the fight broke out, the women escaped from this swarm of fangs and bodies, while the men tried to separate the dogs that entered the doctor’s office during their fight. From where I was standing I could hear the doctor screaming and the dogs howling.

“Look how fun this female dog is, she’s poisonous!” At that point, I wasn’t sure if my deranged friend was telling me about the dog or the woman who had made her angry. “Hopefully things happening here don’t happen anywhere else,” said the old woman with the swollen legs.

My mother called me to tell me to go get my daughter’s lunch because she was not feeling well and could not go to school. I got on my bike and was back at the pharmacy in less than ten minutes.

I tried to sit away from my friend this time, away from voices and screams. I watched the line slowly advance from my new location, until it was my turn at 2:30 p.m. I was finally able to buy the medicine, but I was only able to buy half of what I needed.

I got on my bike and on the way back I let go of all the emotions that had built up in me. Every time I pedaled I suffered from Monica’s pain and cried over the old woman’s swollen legs, over the dog that found itself without a pretender, the uncertainty of waking up every day without hope, on the almost empty plastic bag, on the medicine that I could not get in its entirety for my parents.

Read more about Fabiana del Valle here on Havana Times.

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