“Doc, I am deploying to Germany. I am trying to get myself off of prednisone and hydrocodone but I need one more refill to do it.”
I searched the computer system. His name was not there. Was it possible there was a fluke in the system? I didn’t trust the electronic health record enough based on prior experiences that it was somewhat plausible though highly improbable.
I verified the spelling. I checked by date of birth. Not there.
He had said he was seeing one of the doctors that I cover for that works in another office and had just been in on Tuesday for a head cold but had forgotten to ask her. Now it was Saturday. He said he was shipping out on Sunday. Tomorrow.
I checked that doctor’s clinic schedule. He wasn’t there.
“What time were you seen?”
There was a blank spot at 2PM. The only blank spot on her entire schedule was 2PM. How did he know that? Coincidence?
Opiate withdrawal can be unpleasant. Sometimes it is dangerous. I did not intend to fill that prescription, though. What I was most concerned with was the prednisone. Abrupt discontinuation of long term steroids can be deadly. Especially at the doses he said he was taking.
“You are in the military?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that. What did you say?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m on a pay phone. It’s kind of windy.”
Who the hell uses a pay phone in 2015 anyway?
“A pay phone?”
“Yeah, I had to cancel my cell phone. Leaving the country and all…”
Hmmmm. Plausible. Maybe.
“Why aren’t you using a military physician?”
“I get better care in the private sector.”
That might be true.
“What branch are you in again?”
“Which pharmacy do you want me to use?”
He told me. Joy and relief crept into his voice. “God bless you, Doc!” I could hear another voice in the background but could not make out what was said before they hung up.
I was highly skeptical at this point. No. Let me restate that. I KNEW he was a fraud but I wanted to get the rest of the story. Curiosity, you know.
I dialed the pharmacy.
“Can you tell me if this fellow has ever gotten prednisone or any narcotics filled there before?”
“Oh. That guy? You are the fourth doctor to ask that question today.”
I dialed the number given by the answering service as the contact for this “patient”, the same number I had dialed before, but it went straight to voice mail. Pay phone my butt.
“I just wanted to let you know that I will not be filling that prescription for you, sir….” Why did I call him back anyway? I wanted him to know that I knew.