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The first instinct is to help

September 30, 2020

A pharmacist makes a call and helps change a life.

Gayatri Patel was working alone in a south Edmonton pharmacy. It was just about closing time on a warm August night. A young man came in. He seemed stressed. He told Gayatri he wanted narcotics.

"Honestly, I was a little scared because I was working alone, and a lot of thoughts were going through my head,” remembers Gayatri. “But at the same time, I wanted to help this young man."

Gayatri's pharmacy is partnered with the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP). The VODP allows Albertans, including those who live in remote areas or have mobility issues, an opportunity to meet with a physician using video conferencing or even over the phone to potentially get started on treatment that same day.

Gayatri gave him the phone number for VODP, and he left. She could see him through the window. He had a short conversation, put his phone down, and started crying. She went outside and tried to figure out what had happened with the call, but he was so upset he couldn't answer. Gayatri decided to reach out to the VODP from the pharmacy phone.

"I explained the situation to them, that this young man needs help,” she said. “Then I gave him the phone and he had a 10-minute chat with VODP, and they did an assessment over the phone."

The VODP employee that Gayatri spoke with was Lisa Nadon.

"She indicated to me that she didn't know the fellow, and that he wasn't in the program, but she was wondering if I could help him anyway," recalled Lisa.

The VODP prescribed suboxone, but Gayatri didn't have it in her pharmacy. So, she arranged for someone from the store to drive to another pharmacy to pick it up.

Lisa said the man was so incredibly grateful.

"He just sounded like a normal human being down on his luck, and it could happen to any one of us,” said Lisa. “When I said to him, 'You are the luckiest man to have that guardian angel right now,' he started crying even more, and he said, 'I know. She is the nicest lady I have ever met.'"

Lisa was impressed with how Gayatri handled the situation, partly because Gayatri's first impulse was not to call police, but rather to help.

"At that moment, I was scared, but at the same time I knew it was my job to provide the help,” explained Gayatri. “I knew that I had to help this young man."

At VODP there's a bulletin board where employees can post accolades. Lisa posted this experience.

"As a society we're so quick to judge and I've probably done it myself, but it's just so rewarding to know that there are people out there like her that can help folks like him," said Lisa.

Gayatri was happy she could help the young man and feels that VODP provides a valuable service.

"It is really important because a lot of people need help,” she said. “They want to quit this habit, their addiction, so the VODP is really essential in our society."

As for the young man, Lisa knows he transferred his prescription to his hometown, which means he is still dosing and getting help thanks to Gayatri and the VODP.

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