Monday, May 3, 2010

Speaking of Recalls

B-Mama just posted about a crib recall, and in the comments section MaryAlice mentioned the recent Tylenol recall. I didn't think much of it at the time, until this weekend when my daughter was feeling sick in conjunction with a bloody nose. While I suspected the nose bleed was related to her allergies, I called the pediatricians office just to make sure. They referred me to the triage unit at the local hospital (typical protocol for weekend hours) and I chatted with a nurse. She didn't think the nose bleed was a big deal, and suggested I give Gianna some Tylenol. She then asked me to make sure my Tylenol bottle was not on the "recall list." I got the bottle, read her the number, and sure enough ours was one of the recalled bottles. This conversation followed:

Me: finish reading the bottle number to nurse...
Nurse: "Umm, ok, did you open the bottle?"
Me: "Yes."
Nurse: "How much of it did your children consume?"
Me: "about 2/3 of the bottle." (it was a 4oz bottle so this was not a small amount!)
Nurse: "Oh, ok...(long pause)... well, what child had the Tylenol."
Me: "I don't know, probably all of them. We have had the bottle for a couple of months. I think my two year old has had most of it, he has had some ear infections, and maybe my 4 year old has had some too."
Nurse: "Have you noticed any funny behavior from your two boys.
Me: "Everyday," and I begin to laugh.
Nurse: does not laugh. "Well, I suggest after we get off the phone you call poison control. When is the last time they had the Tylenol?"
Me: Now mildly concerned, "I have no idea, it hasn't been in the past week."
Nurse: "Ok, well, you need to call poison control, and you also need to call this product information number. We are advising all parents of children who have consumed the contaminated Tylenol to call this hotline. Do you have the number for poison control?"
Me: a little more concerned, "yes, of course, I'm the mother of 2 young boys. Can I ask you to give me a little more information about how this product was contaminated, I mean, what is the possible risk to my children?"
Nurse: "You will need to call the number for more information, but I believe some of the bottles contained higher than normal doses of the active ingredient. In addition, there are unknown products in the bottle.

Great. I thank the nurse for the information, forgettting completely about sick daughter and nosebleed, and I call the hotline number. And, after waiting on hold for about 15 minutes--don't you just love corporations-- I give the rep the info about the bottle, and this conversation ensues.

Customer Service Rep: "Thank you for your address, I apologize for the inconvenience, we will be sending you a refund voucher."
Me: "Umm, I don't really care that much about the $7, but I'm a little concerned about the possible effect on my children of consuming this bottle of Tylenol. Can you answer a few of my questions regarding the possible risks or side effects?"
Customer Service Rep: "No, I'm sorry ma'am. You will have to call back on Monday to get that information. You will need to speak with a product representative."
Me: "Um, ok, well can I leave my number so a product representative can call me back tomorrow?"
Customer Service Rep: "No m'am, I'm sorry, but we can't make outgoing calls here. We just receive calls, we are a reception center only."
Me: "So you are telling me that my kids consumed some potentially harmful Tylenol, with unknown products, and you have no further details, and to find out more I have to call you back, and wait on hold again?"
Customer Service Rep: "That's right ma'am. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience."
Me: "Ok, well I find it pretty upsetting that in this particular case, when you have sold a defective product posing potential harm to children, that you do not have a system set up to return the calls of concerned parents. I find it hard to believe that with all the technology available to us, you don't have the ability to make outgoing calls."
Customer Service Rep: "I'm sorry for the inconvenience."
Me: realizing slowly that I'm wasting my time and breath talking to this guy about the poor customer service system, "I know this isn't your fault, but tell your manager that the system you guys have stinks." I then do my own research, call poison control, and confirm my suspicion that my kids will be fine.

Now, I have a tendency to lose my patience and my temper in these sorts of conversations with customer service representatives. I have been known to yell, cry, and name call. I'm sure I've given more than one priest a good chuckle in confession as I describe my embarrassing behavior. I loath the administrative dealings of large corporate customer service departments. I find it amazing that they can't make an outgoing call, they cannot transfer you to a supervisor without at least an hour wait, and that you always hear a voice telling you about the abnormally high call volume and the longer than normal wait time. The general feeling of helplessness that comes from the entire experience is unsettling. When I'm postpartum, overtired, or pregnant the after effects of these experiences are really frightening.

I've been meditating on this a lot lately, because last week I had a battle with Verizon over our internet connection. The internet had been down for 5 days and I spent over 8 hours on the phone trying to get the connection fixed. It was frustrating, and my efforts were pretty much futile. While each conversation didn't end in tears, each day I allowed the feeling of helplessness to consume me, even if only for a brief time, and I lost my interior peace. I then read this passage:

The exercise of freedom as a choice among options, plainly is important. However, to avoid making painful mistakes we also need to understand that there is another way of exercise freedom: less immediately exciting, poorer, humbler, but much more common, and one immensely fruitful, both humanly and spiritually. It is consenting to what we did not originally choose...The highest and most fruitful form of human freedom is found in accepting, even more than in dominating. We show the greatness of our freedom when we transform reality, but still more when we accept it trustingly as it is given to us day after order to become truly free, we are often called to accept what we did not want, and even what we would not have wanted at any price. There is a paradoxical law of human life here: one cannot be truly free unless one accepts not always being free!

To achieve true interior freedom we must train ourselves to accept, peacefully and willingly, plenty of things that seem to contradict our freedom. This means consenting to our personal limitations, our weaknesses, our powerlessness, this or that situation that life imposes on us, and so on.

Quoted from Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe

In the life of this simple mother, it means accepting the difficult reality of customer service departments at large corporations. I am not "helpless" in a spiritual sense. I can "do something" about the situation. I can accept it as God's will in my life. I'm naturally an active and aggressive person, so the image of actually choosing acceptance, rather than passively dealing with the trials given to me, frees my soul and leaves me ready for the next challenge. To have interior freedom and peace, I don't need to be passive. I have a choice to make with regards to every trial.

And so today I'm praying for the grace to choose acceptance of small trials.

On a practical note, I got more information from my own web searches on the recall. If you want a complete list of recalled products, check out this site. I'm sure my kids will be fine. They have consumed unknown products before and I'm sure they will do so again in the future.


B-Mama said...

I share your distaste for customer service departments. You would have been so proud of me yesterday in voicing my discontent over a grocery shopping experience at our local food store. I walked up to the manager and let him know it had been a sub-par shopping experience. Shocking for me, huh?!

Thanks to motherhood for my new found voice. When I'm tired and pregnant, I have even less tolerance for anything less than par. Sadly, I find more and more substandard workers/experiences around me everyday!!!

B-Mama said...

Also, I just checked our meds and am relieved to find that none of our generic Walgreen products fall under the recall. Just an FYI for anyone out there Thank goodness mom is so CHEAP!

Olivia D said...

I was under the impression that the Tylenol that was recalled was not necessarily harmful to the health of the child but rather did not meet the quality standards it was supposed to. (like the construction of the bottle was not up to standards or the droppers had defective plastic, etc) It says there has been no ill health effects reported. If that makes you feel any better!

I always manage to keep my patience with people on the phone with their binder of canned responses, but I def. have "difficult" written on all my medical records and children's pedi. records. I DO NOT get along with medical personnel, just bad luck I guess, and some horrendously bad experiences. So frustrating.

Jaime said...

I loved the quote, Red. Good post, and huge hug!:) What a good reminder...

Kate E. said...

That was a nice thoughtful post and I had a similar experience with our tylenol & motrin after a winter of ear infections.

But for me the kicker was
"my children have consumed unknown products before and I"m sure they will do so again in the future".

Truer words :)

Right Said Red said...

B-Mama, I am shocked that you voiced your disapproval! So funny. I hope it wasn't too bad!?!

Olivia D--I have trouble with the medical profession as well. Must be my red-headed confrontational nature ;-) I'm working on it!

Mary Alice said...

for more reasons to be angry at J&J: