Terry Forshee
My Journey

Week 10: Packing Pills

Terry ForsheeWhen asked what a pharmacist does, most people will reply, “he fills up bottles with pills, he puts labels on the bottles, he takes prescriptions, etc.” Truth is, though, that is only a small part of the life of a pharmacist, as I learned today while I was with Terry Forshee, owner of Cherokee pharmacy in Cleveland and an avid Georgia Bulldogs fan.
After dad had introduced me to him and vice versa, I started by asking him some of the questions I had, such as some wise/unwise decisions he has made, and anything he has ever done that didn’t work. He replied that the wisest decision he ever made was when he started a Christian school (TCPS) with four or five other people. The worst decision he ever made was when he bought a condo for his kids while they were attending college (instead of them staying on campus or renting an apartment for 6 years). It was a great price, and he could have saved or made a ton of money with it, but he never took into consideration the possibility that his children would transfer after a year. You can guess what happened. The biggest thing he has done that didn’t work was when he bought another building so they could expand, but the move ended up dividing their business instead of increasing it.

Then I asked him why he decided to be a pharmacist. He smiled and said that when he was my age, he was given a ‘job’ making milkshakes at a pharmacy. He didn’t exactly think “I want to do this when I grow up” right then, but he did think it was a fun thing to do. Then, when he had graduated from college and was looking for a job, the Lord opened up doors so that he was able to buy his own pharmacy and start a business, and that’s what he has done for the past 30 plus years.

I also noticed that he is open on Sundays, and I couldn’t help but ask why he, as a Christian, was doing that. He said that he bought the business from Seventh Day Adventists, and part of their agreement when he bought it  was that he would stay open on Sundays. It might change in the future, because he is planning on moving to another location, but that is the case for now. Thus was the wealth of information I gleaned  from Terry, but don’t think that all I did was sit and talk for 8 hours.  That was just the morning.

After our chat, Terry handed me over to one of his employees, Nina, so she could show me around the building. It is actually divided into two different ventures.  The downstairsThe IV Machine is for walk-ins and ordinary prescriptions, and the upstairs is for their patients who are in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. The upstairs crew also makes IVs if one of their patients needs one. Mike Carder, one of the workers up there, showed me the machine which they use to make the IVs. It looked like a big steel box with two chambers, one bigger than the other, and a sliding partition separating the two. A door was leading into the small one, with a tray in the middle of it. Basically, they take the place of an anteroom and a sterilized room. When Mike turned the machine on, the chambers started to fill up with slightly compressed, clean  air. What he would do then would be to place the fluid, syringes, etc. on the tray, make sure the door to the outside was closed, then put his hands in the gloves (those white things) and transfer the medicine into the large chamber. Then you simply fill the IV bag, pull it out, and Presto! there’s your IV ready for use.

After my tour of the upstairs, Nina took me down to the main counter where they handle the walk-ins and fill up bottles. I already said that filling the bottles The Downstairs Counteris only part of the life of a pharmacist; this is where I found that out. The workers also have to make sure that they are giving the right medicine to the right person, check the dosage, see if they are coming in too early or too late, you get the picture. When I had checked out the counter and its surrounding areas, I was introduced to the workers.  Let me tell you what: they are some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. First, there was Brad, who explained to me a ton of stuff I didn’t know, and who also owns a really cool knife, one that I’ve never seen before, then there was Elizabeth, who has one of the most enjoyable senses of humor I have ever seen, and finally, there was Mike Usery. He grew up in Texas, and his earliest childhood memory was watching the Cowboys and the Steelers playing when the quarterbacks were Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. Need I say more?
Nina and I
At first, I just kind of watched while people came in and got their prescriptions, but as the day progressed, and I felt more comfortable, I started helping out  with filling the bottles. They have special trays for that kind of work, and all you do is just dump the pills on the tray, count out the pills (usually by Mike Usery3’s or 5’s), double check the medicine and the correct number of pills, and it is ready to be given to the customer. I got to fill and cap a lot of bottles, and I felt like a real part of the team. I even got to work until six, like the rest of them. Once again, I learned that what I thought about this job was completely wrong, and the part of the job that people actually see is about as small as the top of an iceberg. And hey, I might have found my future job as well; who knows?


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