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Just another day in the desert …

In the United States one who does not have health insurance pays heavily for prescriptions & doctor visits. So I like to get whatever I can taken care of in the country in which I live, where I have insurance.

I have incredible allergies that require me to carry an epi-pen with me. My US epi-pen has expired, so I need to get a new one. It’s much less expensive to get this where I live than the US … financially that is.

In my little desert country you can get just about any non-narcotic medication without a prescription. I try several pharmacies – I go in with my old epi-pen (in it’s original box w/ prescription written on side) with no luck. Pharmacy after pharmacy tells me to ‘go to the government hospital’. I happen to be at the dermatologist & ask him about it. He says the same ‘a government hospital is where you will find this’. But, he makes my life a little easier by writing me a prescription.

A week later I head in to the government hospital in my little desert town with my prescription in hand. Positive I have it all under control …

I make my way to the emergency room pharmacy and, after polite conversation, confidently hand my prescription to the pharmacist.

Here it begins …

He first looks at my prescription and says ‘sorry, miss, this prescription is from outside of our hospital. You must check into the hospital and the nurse will take care of this for you.’ That’s not too bad, I think. So I say ‘great, if I check in, the nurse will give me a prescription from your hospital and I can get what need, yes?’ … Not exactly. … the nurse will administer the drug. WHAT?? I don’t need an epi-pen now! I simply need a prescription because mine is expired. The pharmacist then proceeds to explain to me that an epi-pen is not something you take with you … if you need one, you come to the hospital and a nurse will administer.

Ummmm … I attempt to politely explain that I would be dead before I could get to the hospital. Through a lot of miming (including choking motions & lots of ‘dead’ faces) I am able to get the pharmacist to understand that an epi-pen means emergency and one may not have time to get to the nearest hospital. At least, I believe he understands.

He makes several calls to his supervisor. After what seems like ages, he tells me ‘ok, miss, you can get this. Go pay & I will prepare it for you’.

Paying for my prescription is a series of running back and forth to get the correct ‘GH’ number to create a file to pay my 1 AED (less than $0.30).

Finally, I return to the pharmacist with my ‘paid’ receipt. And I wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, he calls me up with my prescription ready.

I am handed two small sealed glass vials in a little sealed plastic bag.

Ummmm, ‘ excuse me, sir. How am I to administer this?’

‘No, miss, you bring this to the hospital and a nurse will administer’


‘Do you remember the conversation about choking and dying on the side of the road?”

Literally another 15 minute conversation full of miming with bad English and bad Arabic … finally he tells me to go to a triage nurse in emergency & she will take care of me.

I sit and think about this for a minute and decide – I just need to play this right & I can get a needle & be out of there!

So I go to emergency & tell a nurse that I just need a needle to go with my prescription ….. 20 minutes later I leave the hospital with two small sealed glass vials full of epinephrine, two needles, two syringes, and two alcohol pads …. My new epi-pen! I have no idea how I would actually use this ‘epi-pen’, but I have it!

Patience and humor… requirements of desert life.

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originally from the southern united states, i am currently living in the united arab emirates ~ or what i like to call 'midtown'. here i have returned to my lifelong career as an educator, with a twist. i teach english to bedouins in the empty quarter desert between abu dhabi and saudi arabia. i have a deep love for people; i love to hear their stories and learn about ways of life different from my own. living in this area of the world is full of incredible opportunities for a travel & culture junkie such as myself. it is rich in culture and full of amazing stories - a land where past & present are constantly juxtaposed. it is also an excellent jumping off point to see the world ... to travel and learn about new places & peoples.

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