“I don’t want to do pharmacy,” my brother said to me.
“I don’t want to do pharmacy,” he said again, adamant.
“I’m going to tell Dee”. (That’s our dad.)
He’ll listen, right? How hard can it be? He listens to his patients so attentively every day.
We come from two generations of pharmacists, you see.
Dee’s a pharmacist. Grampy was a pharmacist. Sometimes I think if we weren’t Chinese on our dad’s side, our family name would have been Apothecary. So, naturally, when the time came, Dean was expected to follow suit.
“Go on, do it.”
“Tell him you don’t want to be a pharmacist. Tell him you want to be a writer instead,” I said, with both my hands giving fist-pumps as moral support.
He walks down the stairs. Starts talking to my parents. Argument ensues.
An hour later, he walks back up to me.
“Sean, I’m going to do pharmacy.”
Surprisingly, the following years went by without a hitch, but without much else either. Sitting in on lectures delivered by voices seemingly more monotonous than the one before, he finished module after module, coursework after coursework, exam after exam. And finally, the day had come where he was a fully qualified pharmacist.
As the years went on, his achievements as a pharmacist seem to have been overshadowed by horrible patients, funding cuts, long working hours and that lingering literary aspiration.
After hearing one comment too many about being a “glorified shopkeeper” or a “pretend medic”, he finally had it. He kicked off his pharmacy shorts and found work as a writer. A journalist.
Then one day, news of a strange new virus from Wuhan broke. Patients were hospitalised for flu-like symptoms.
Shortness of breath. Loss of taste and smell. Confusion. The list goes on.
Before you know it, fake news, real news; it was everything and anything anyone could talk about. The death toll climbed so fast, by the time they actually came up with a name for the virus — COVID-19 — it had already travelled halfway across the world to the UK. And then some.
What started as a localised epidemic morphed into a pandemic that would go on to bring modern society to a standstill.
Every time Dean reported on a COVID-19-related event, he felt compelled to go back to the front lines.
And so he did.
Maybe this was where he was meant to be all along.
Sean Quay Rui Nan, outpatients clinical pharmacist, Bristol Royal Infirmary and the Swift Primary Care Network
This piece was shortlisted in our 2020 writing competition ‘Post-pandemic pharmacy: a brave new world?’