The caller was Chinese, and he wanted a medicine. That could mean anything. He gave the name which, through his thick accent, sounded like “desitin,” an over-the-counter treatment for diaper rash.
That didn’t seem right, so I coaxed him through the spelling (“S as in Shanghai….? “T as in Taiwan…?). The result was “dasatinib.” This turns out to be treatment for a common leukemia, FDA approved a few years ago, and superior to other treatments. A friend in China had asked the guest to obtain some.
I fulfill these requests if they sound legitimate, and this qualified. I made sure he understood that he must find a pharmacy and explain exactly what his friend needed including the dose, number of pills, and instructions. This sometimes involves phoning back to the home country. The pharmacist would then call me, and I would approve. A trip to the hotel wasn’t necessary.
The guest had phoned in the evening and mentioned that he was returning to China the following morning. When the day passed with no call, I had the sinking feeling that, by delaying till his departure day, the guest had waited too long. The average CVS or Walgreens might not stock these high-tech, chemotherapeutic drugs, so the pharmacist might refer him to a large medical center such as UCLA. This would take hours. With a plane to catch, the guest probably realized that there wasn’t time.