When the delivery of Caleb Helland’s epilepsy medication was delayed, his mother reached out to UI Health Care Specialty Pharmacy Services, which promptly created a new batch and worked with the Iowa State Patrol to get the medication to the family’s Mason City home that same evening.

Caleb Helland with Iowa State Patrol trooper Robert Sankey

After Specialty Pharmacy Services made a new batch of Caleb Helland’s medication, a pilot with the Iowa State Patrol flew it from Iowa City to Mason City. From there, state trooper Robert Sankey delivered the medication to the Helland family in his squad car. Photo courtesy of Cassie Helland.

When a concerned mother called University of Iowa Health Care Specialty Pharmacy Services, worried that her son wouldn’t get the medication he needed to control his seizures, the UI team helped coordinate a plan to solve the issue.

Caleb Helland, 14, of Mason City, has epilepsy and takes two doses per day of Epidiolex to prevent seizures. The family used up its last dose of the medication the morning of April 3 and was expecting more to be delivered within a few hours. When it didn’t arrive, Caleb’s mother, Cassie Helland, called the specialty pharmacy—one of the few pharmacies in the region that has access to this medication. The clock was ticking before Caleb would need his next dose, and his mother was worried.

A member of the pharmacy team contacted the shipping company and learned the medication had been on a plane in Indianapolis, but the medication was removed because the plane was too heavy. Another member of the team collaborated with a UI pediatric neurologist to assess the urgency of the situation.

“It was all hands on deck,” said Alex Mersch, interim manager of UI Health Care Specialty Pharmacy Services. “We had to figure out a way to get this kiddo his medication.”

The UI team contacted the Iowa State Patrol and explained the situation. A few minutes later, a plan was in action: a pilot with the State Patrol would pick up the medication and fly it from Iowa City to Mason City. From there, a state trooper would transport the medication to the Helland family in his squad car. The team also made a contingency plan, just in case the medication didn’t arrive as planned.

Around 5:30 p.m. April 3, the trooper arrived at the Hellands with the medication Caleb needed. Cassie Helland said it was a “huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”

“I was very proud of our team,” Mersch said. “Everybody had this patient in their mind, and everyone knew their role. It’s just a testament to the culture here, that the patient comes first, and we’ll do anything we can for them.”

Produced by the UI Office of Strategic Communication and UI Health Care Marketing and Communications
Justin Torner