Valley family speaks out about prescription mistake

MESA, AZ - How much do you trust your pharmacist? A Valley family learned the hard way that no matter how much you trust your pharmacy worker, you must always remember to check the labels on your prescriptions.

It was supposed to be a routine surgery for 16-year-old Sean O'Connor.

"I got my wisdom teeth pulled because they were coming in early," the teen said.

The O'Connor family assumed everything was fine after the October surgery. That is, until the phone rang four days later.

"I just went into shock," said Sean's mom, Jeanne O'Connor.

"I didn't even know what to say," added Sean.

The pharmacy that filled Sean's prescription for pain medication gave him a chemotherapy drug instead. It's called Mercaptopurine and it treats a form of leukemia.

"There was another guy at the pharmacy with my name… another Sean O'Connor, who apparently had cancer, I guess," Sean explained.

But, that Shawn O'Connor spells his name differently from Sean the 16-year-old. Jeanne admits she didn't catch the mistake.

"To be honest, I thought, oh, this is the generic for Percocet. I just threw the paperwork away and handed him his bottles and didn't think anything," she said.

Looking at the bottle closer would have given it away. The dosage is very different: two pills a day for Mercaptopurine, six pills a day for Percocet.

"We ended up counting and he'd taken 17 pills," Jeanne recalled.

Seventeen of the wrong pills... in just three days.

"I was wondering, would that hurt me?" Sean said.

"It attacks every single cell in your body that reproduces. That's massive. That's huge. We're talking about a child that's still supposed to be growing," explained Jeanne.

A child who's also had serious health issues in the past.  Just two years ago, Sean nearly lost his life while battling a staph infection.

"So, now, you have a young man who's had an issue with immunity-related problems and you're going to give him a drug that suppresses his immunity and stops cell growth?" questioned Sean's father, Mike.

After taking the wrong medication, Sean went through a lot of testing and a lot of blood work, which indicated higher than normal blood pressure and chemicals in his blood, according to Mike.

But, there's one particular side-effect that scares this 16-year-old the most.  We asked Sean if he dreams of having a big family.

"Not too big, but maybe 3 or 4 kids. Yeah," he answered.

But, that's something that may never happen. Sean now has to come to the realization that this mistake could make him sterile.

"I just think that would be sad and I think it would be hard to get older and never have kids."

It's a simple mistake with potentially serious repurcussions that could have been avoided. 

So, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you have the right pills. 

Doctors often prescribe name-brand drugs, but pharmacists may fill the prescription with a generic.  So, ask your doctor or pharmacist if the name doesn't look familiar. 

Also, remember to check the bottle -- make sure your name, address, and prescribing doctor are all labeled correctly. 

It only takes just a few seconds to check and the O'Connors say noticing any of those mistakes would have told them they had the wrong drug.

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