Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Medical Emergency . . .

Have Walker will Cruise.
If you look at the demographics of the “Cruising Crowd” you might notice that it is an older group. Holland America historically has appealed to a more “mature” cruiser; in fact I e-mailed mom from our last Holland America cruise to tell her she would fit right in because the subtitle for the cruise could definitely have been “Cruisin' with a cane” - mom was really suffering with her knees at that time, and found the last cruise with us difficult (I was not just being mean . . . . .). It was so bad that the dining room had a parking area for the scooters, motorized chairs, and walkers. A table next to us had one passenger dependent on an oxygen tank, one with a walker and another driving a motorized scooter.

Now with an aging clientele, there are going to be health issues, and I think it is wonderful that people with these issues can actually get away for a vacation, and I admire people with health issues that make an effort to get out and around, making the best of the situation. Many of them have realized that cruising is the one vacation option that is well equipped to support them. Most modern ships are very accessible, and have medical facilities and personnel that are actually better equipped than some of the countries the ships call on.

With a lot of people who have health issues, it is very possible that these facilities are gong to be called upon when people develop complications, have accidents, or conditions worsen. The cruise lines of course would like you to believe that everything is always perfect on their ships; nothing bad happens, no one gets hurt, and certainly no one ever dies. We have been on ships where people have been seriously hurt in traffic accidents while visiting ports, and there was a trip where a passenger died while on the cruise. In these incidents we happened to be sitting at dinner with someone who was there, or who knew the person, otherwise we would not have known anything at all had happened. There is no announcement made, and if you ask the crew, they “Do not know”. It is obviously a policy on cruise ships not to worry passengers about bad things; probably a good policy in fact, since they do not want folks to worry, but if we have seen three such incidents, they have to be more common than the lines let on.

On this ship however, it became unavoidable, as they had a serious medical emergency where a passenger had to be med-vacked from the ship. A coast guard helicopter had to be sent for, and the passenger had to be lifted off the ship and taken to hospital. An operation like this is kind of hard to hide from 1200 people, so the captain had to make an announcement. Of course it was kept very general, and rumours spread; he had a heart attack, he was drunk, fell and hit his head on the piano. Again, we had sat with a man who had been there and assisted as he had some pre-med training, and he told us the gentleman just collapsed while walking into the theater to join his wife for the evening performance. It was serious, because he was not breathing for a time, and was in pretty serious distress. It could have been a heart attack, but he did not appear to be drunk, and there was no piano involved.

The ship turned around, headed back closer to land, and a helicopter was dispatched to meet us. As the helicopter circled the ship, we could feel the ship slow, and full stabilizers activated. The Crows Nest Lounge and the theater were evacuated, as these rooms are at the front of the ship, and people were warned not to use flash photography which might distract the pilots.

We did not see the actual operation as our cabin is towards the back of the ship, and I figured there would be too many people up aft rubber-necking, trying to get a look at the emergency, but people who did see it claimed it was pretty amazing. As the ship steamed ahead at about 12 knots, the helicopter hovered overhead as if attached to the ship, and over a twenty minute period, the helicopter lowered emergency medical personnel who stabilized the patient, and airlifted him into the copter.

It was then back to business as usual. No announcements were made updating his condition, and the gentleman who had assisted him initially could not even get information from the crew. This sort of thing does not happen on cruise ships. . . . . it's not good for business. Go back to having fun, eat more food, order another “drink of the day”.

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