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The quick-thinking pharmacist who saved a patient in anaphylactic shock

Little did this award-winning pharmacist know he'd be saving a patient's life when he went to work during Bonfire Night weekend in 2021

Mortimer Pharmacy is located in the remote village that shares its name on the outskirts of Reading, Berkshire. Open seven days a week, the 100-hour pharmacy is usually very busy despite its rural location, according to Mohammed Rafiq.

He was the second pharmacist and independent prescriber at the pharmacy on November 6, 2021 when he intervened in a medical emergency – turning what was supposed to be an ordinary shift into a night he will never forget.

Read more: They’re back! C+D Awards officially return for 2023 with two new categories

On the same evening that people around the country were celebrating Bonfire Night, Mohammed stayed cool under pressure and saved a patient who was having an anaphylactic shock.

His quick thinking earned the gratitude of the patient and her mother, as well as leading C+D readers to vote for him as their Above and Beyond - Individual winner at last year's C+D Awards.

He recounts the story of what happened that night and how his life has changed since he won a C+D Award.


Leaping into action


Mohammed is reluctant to take credit for saving the patient's life when he speaks to C+D, saying he only did “what most people would do”.

He was working on his own in the pharmacy when the doorbell rang at about 8pm and the distressed mother of a 16-year-old girl came into the store asking for help, he recalls. After following her outside to a nearby car park, he discovered the girl in the front passenger seat of her mother’s car, although the lack of streetlights in the village meant it was very dark and he couldn’t see the patient properly.

Read more: ‘Outstanding’ pharmacist praised for saving teenager from anaphylactic shock

The first thought that ran through Mohammed's head was to get the patient into the pharmacy or at least lying down, but it soon became clear that the teenage girl wasn’t able to move.

Mohammed remembers that the patient told him her head and ears felt full and her face was swelling. From the information he could glean and from what he could see, he quickly realised the patient was probably having an anaphylactic reaction.


Calling for help


Having gained a better understanding of the patient’s condition, Mohammed ran back into the pharmacy and picked up a couple of adrenaline pens. After returning to the car, he double-checked the patient’s history as the patient's mother had told him that there was no history of allergies or any type of anaphylactic reaction.

As he was darting to-and-fro, Mohammed also called paramedics, who were “very, very, very busy” because it was Bonfire Night and arrived about half an hour later. Knowing that anything could happen during this time, Mohammed also tried to get a defibrillator machine outside the pharmacy ready but was unable to get access to it. He recalls that he had a brick to hand to break into the machine if it came to it.

Read more: The award-winning pharmacy team that raised thousands of pounds for Ukraine

Mohammed’s fears that the patient would deteriorate turned out to be well-placed, and after administering one of the adrenaline pens, her condition worsened. Having confirmed the patient’s medical history as much as he could, he felt more confident administering the second adrenaline pen about five minutes after the first. After the second pen was administered, the young girl “slowly, slowly improved” and by the time the paramedics arrived, she was talking and generally in a “better state”.


Previous experience


Dealing with a life-and-death situation is nerve-wracking at the best of times, but even more so when working under minimal street lighting. So how did Mohammed manage to stay so calm under pressure? He believes that a previous experience of helping a patient suffering an anaphylactic reaction prepared him for the events of that night.

About “five, six years ago”, Mohammed was working at a supermarket pharmacy when one of the security guards came into the dispensary, he tells C+D. They undid the top button of their shirt and took their tie off, explaining they had just had a sweet and thought it contained nuts. While the patient had an adrenaline pen on them, they had never used it and so Mohammed stepped in to help.

Read more: Could you win a C+D Award? Top tips to make your entry sparkle

However, he notes that this event was less “nerve-racking” as the patient had handed him their prescribed medication to use and he was not working on his own on that occasion. 


What's next?


The “huge achievement” in winning “one of the most prestigious awards in community pharmacy” is not lost on Mohammed, who looks at his C+D award "daily” when he is working from his computer.

So treasured is the award that it has gone with him to his new workplace: Whitewater Pharmacy in Hook, Hampshire. He is part-owner of the village pharmacy, making the move in January this year. He had always been looking for his own pharmacy and had decided he wanted to be his own boss, he explains.

The award is on display for everyone to see, he adds, and whenever he is asked why he won it, he “will just go through the story”. Perhaps this is why he doesn’t see a future that doesn’t involve pharmacy, or perhaps it is because there is more he wants to contribute to the profession.

Whatever the reason, Mohammed is certain that he doesn’t ever see himself “going away from pharmacy”.


The C+D Awards 2023 will take place at The Brewery in London on September 6. Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2023 awards and enter today.


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