Playing Pharmacist With an Argentine Soap Opera Actress (Random Travel Moment 14)


When I checked in at the beachfront hotel in Palomino, Colombia, I immediately noticed how much Maria, the manager, smiled. She looked beautiful and happy…radiant, in fact.

“I used to be an actress on a soap opera in Argentina,” she told me proudly when we had our first conversation.

“Really? A sweet character or a villainess?”


A Former Villainess

“Villaness,” she said. “Muy mala.” Very bad.

We both laughed. I then confessed to her that I watch some soaps and we chatted about the ridiculous/predictable story lines and how they’re all essentially the same. It was a fun chat and the first of several we would have.

The day I checked out, however, it was a different story. Maria was not so bubbly. She looked a bit under the weather or something–a little pale and not quite right.

I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she had diarrhea and stomach cramps and that she’d been vomiting.

No Time To See a Doctor

“Oh no,” I replied. “Have you seen a doctor?” I was hoping she’d say yes, that she’d traveled to see someone in Santa Marta–the nearest big city where medical care would be good. I also hoped that she’d been tested (or that her feces had been sent to a lab).

But she had not. She explained that she couldn’t due to her work schedule; it just wasn’t possible since she was the ‘administradora‘ in charge and no one else could run the show for her. The best she could do was go to the pharmacy in town–Palomino–and get some medication. She told me the person at the pharmacy, an orthodontist, gave her an antiparasitic drug: Flagyl.

I asked her some questions, then  learned that she’d drunk a juice in town recently and suspected that tap water had been used, which is a no-no in Palominio. She said that many people there end up with bacterial infections.

Just as she said it, I remembered that I had some Cipro (a good all-purpose antibiotic) with me, as well as probiotics and an antispasmodic. I also had something to stop the diarrhea (although she and I both agreed that she should wait a few days to try to get whatever was making her sick out of her system).


So I asked more questions, about allergies, etc, and then offered her my medication (after some Googling).  I was going home in a few days anyway and really didn’t need it.

I promised her that I would check with a good pharmacist when I returned to Santa Marta–to be sure that I’d given her the right meds. I wrote out the dosage instructions very carefully, the way a pharmacist would.

Rx for Maria

She was really happy. Evidently, the stomach cramps were really getting to her. She said she was quite miserable.

As promised, I followed up at a good pharmacy and was told that what I’d done was fine. The pharmacist was very happy that I ‘prescribed’ the probiotic. Meanwhile, from what I’ve read, Flagyl (metronidazole) contains some antibiotic in it. Still, the pharmacist gave my antibiotic Rx her stamp of approval.

I felt better.

So did Maria, fortunately.

We’ve been in touch (via WhatsApp and Facebook) and she says she’s feeling great.

Your Thoughts/ Reactions/Experiences

Have you ever been in this situation–where you had the medicine someone else needed and offered it to them? Would you have done what I did? Or not?

I had a few moments of wondering if I was doing the right thing, but I didn’t like seeing her suffer. Also, because I’m pretty fluent in Spanish, I felt confident that I’d done a good enough job of asking (and getting answer to) those basic questions that doctors ask when prescribing an antibiotic and the other medications.

Note: In many countries around the world, mostly developing ones, it’s possible to purchase many medications in a pharmacy without an Rx.

2 Responses to Playing Pharmacist With an Argentine Soap Opera Actress (Random Travel Moment 14)
  1. Maria Falvey
    August 21, 2014 | 12:29 am

    If there was no doctor and no pharmacy, I probably would.
    I have accepted the meds of others when I was in need but out of stock. You’re a good traveler to meet when in a time of need though. Bet you’ve upped your karma rating. :-D
    Maria Falvey recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – World Meets GirlMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 24, 2014 | 7:39 am

      Hi, Maria. Just noticed this now. Strange I didn’t see it in my e-mail.

      Anyway, glad you get it. Because medical care was a bit limited in that town, I felt for her.

      Thanks re: the karma rating. I like that idea! :)

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