When Jessica Lopez moved from Yakima to Ellensburg to be near her daughter Wendy’s growing family, she and her husband Tony had a short list: find a home and healthcare. "We were here four days when Tony collapsed," recalls Lopez.
Her husband was rushed to KVH Hospital for emergency care, where attending physician Larry Birger made an immediate impression. He went on to become the couple’s primary care physician and a literal pain-reliever for Lopez, who was later diagnosed with fibro myalgia.
After two months at Hearthstone, Tony’s care became more than Jessica could physically handle. He moved into a nursing home.
Lopez’s search for a place of her own ended when an acquaintance said, "my mother-in-law wants to rent to a classy older lady." One thing led to another, and Lopez and her new landlady became friends. "She told me the place had a no-pets policy," said Lopez. "But she rented to me anyway. Me and my two cats," she grins.
Six years after Tony’s passing, Lopez, now 69, reflects on how she got here. "I was a childcare center director when the pain started. I took all this over-the-counter stuff," she says. "Buckets and buckets." By the time she entered Dr. Birger’s office for the first time, she was ready for relief. "I’m really tired of the pain," she told him. So from then on, Birger directed her pain management, and Downtown Pharmacy dispensed her medications. "They were wonderful," says Lopez, who was greeted by name on just her second visit to the pharmacy.
This fall, Downtown announced its closure, and Lopez wondered where to turn. With a regulated 28-day prescription, she doesn’t have the luxury of getting a refill a few days before her doses run out. Instead, she has to wait until day 29.
So when a friend showed Lopez an ad for KVH Pharmacy, she quickly decided to check it out.
"They took my prescriptions, no problem," she says. "They're wonderful. They’re quick, they’re professional, and they're just really nice." But while she appreciates the level of customer service KVH Pharmacy offers, the real draw is the hours. "A twenty-four-seven pharmacy. You can’t beat that," says Lopez, "I mean, I could be there at 12:01 and get my prescription filled." For Lopez, that flexibility makes all the difference.
(Photo: Two cats? That was then. Now there are a half-dozen felines - including ginger Toby - who live with or visit Jessica’s tidy abode on a regular basis. Clearly, she’s a caregiver at heart.)
With a new pharmacy under her belt and a trusted provider managing her care, Lopez is now focused on living as full a life as possible. She spends quality time with Wendy’s family, including husband PJ and seven grandchildren ranging in age from six months to 22 years. Lopez’s two other children, Heather and Joshua, live with their families in western Washington. When Joshua recently married a redhead named Jessica, Lopez gave Jessica her engraved Bible. "Now there’s two of us," she crowed.
While Jessica dearly loves family, she’s always found her deepest connections in music. "I sang soprano in the Bremerton Symphony Chorus for 15 years. Now I sing in Valley Voices and the Ellensburg Women’s Chorus," she shares, grateful for the chance to sing again now that her pain is under control.
"As strange as this may sound, singing brings me closer to God. That’s what I enjoy about it." For Lopez, her ‘fifteen minutes’ was performing Beethoven’s Ninth at the Seattle Opera House. "I was so high from the music afterwards," she laughs, "I had to take my shoes off and go outside and run in the grass."
In the coming year, Lopez hopes to see a new trend of kindness in the way people treat each other. After many years working in the retail industry, she knows first-hand the importance of customer-focused service. It’s why she plans to remain a KVH Pharmacy patient for the rest of her life, and has already encouraged others to do the same. And if that isn’t enough to persuade them, Lopez is quick to point out, "they’ve got a great pharmacy tech name Jessica. I mean, what more could you ask for?"