When a Medical Emergency Happens During your Vacation

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After all the planning we do, we certainly don’t want a medical emergency occurring during our vacations, but sometimes it does happen.  We had a situation at the start of our most recent vacation that I hope no one experiences. We were set to leave for a 5 night cruise on the Disney Dream to celebrate my son’s fourth birthday.  My mom was cruising with us, as were my brother and his family.

We were on board for about 30 minutes when my husband Dave started feeling pain in his abdomen. His appendix had already been removed so it wasn’t that. I didn’t even know the extent of it at first. He just said he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go lie down.  He asked to just stay back from lunch and it had gotten so bad that he ended up going to the shipboard doctor. (I will cut to the end to say he is okay and was 100% by the end of the trip.) He went to the doctor around 12:25 or 12:30. He did message me, too, to say he was going there, but the cellphones weren’t being very cooperative so I ended up getting it much later than he sent it. Upon receiving the message, I went immediately to the medical center to see what was up. (I do recall charging past some front desk people that were potentially going to stop me to get into the room with my husband.) At around 1 pm they had an initial diagnosis of a kidney stone. (Due to urinary infection and some blood in the urine.) He was in a large amount of pain and they did an IV with some pain relief plus something to move the stone along. Then it was decision time. They recommended that we go to the hospital for a scan to see if it was a stone, the size and how severe. The alternative was to wait it out on the ship, but if there were complications, or it was something else, the next day we would be at Castaway Cay and getting to a medical facility would be hard from there so then we’d have to wait until Nassau. The doctor indicated an ultrasound would be ideal to determine if it was a stone and the size so that we could decide whether he’d need a constant hospital stay or just some pain relief and other medication.

We opted to get over to the hospital with the hopes that we could just have a quick diagnosis and be back on our way to our cruise. My husband really looked pathetic and the ambulance was called to transport us to the hospital. [They recommended an ambulance since a.)Dave was pathetic, and b.) the hospital would process him quicker since ambulance patients are given priority.) This involved the sheriff and fire department too as they are the first responders to a medical emergency. Thankfully my mom had Blake, my son, but none of the phones were working in this metal can and I couldn’t find them at first.  But, ultimately, prior to the ambulance arriving, after I had gone to get our passports, per the ship’s request, leave Blake’s passport and some other things he’d need, plus grabbed water and stuff, I randomly found my mom in front of an elevator. (This was a thank you God moment as I had no idea where they were and I was impatient waiting on an elevator so I decided to just run up the stairs and figure it out from there. But I had made it up one or 2 flights and I heard them talking while they were waiting on an elevator.) I was able to bring Blake down to see Dave really quick before the ambulance arrived. We wouldn’t let Blake see the stretcher. After a couple of adorable moments with my son trying to make my husband feel better, we heard medical personnel had arrived so we rushed Blake off, and off to the hospital we went by ambulance. We were on our way at 1:53 (per my text messages to Dave’s family.) The hospital was like 20 minutes away or so. Oh and of course it was raining this whole time. (Making everything slower.)

We had 2 hours, essentially, to get back to the ship before the 4 pm last call. (We learned later that we could have easily had until 4:30 p.m.) Everyone thought it was impossible. At the hospital we were separated for awhile while they checked Dave in & determined he was stable. I used this time to confirm that I had trip insurance, oh thank God. (Because of course the policy I could find in my email was expired. I’m the one that buys it (we buy an annual policy) and it’s possible that I was busy with life and missed the purchase. But thankfully it existed.)

I was then able to see Dave. In the hour from the time he received IV meds until my seeing him in the hospital, he was like a new man. His color returned and he was able to engage in a conversation. The pain had apparently also moved a little which was confirmed to be the stone moving.  I was told that when the nurse was first examining Dave that he did a good thing and ordered the urine sample and blood draw at the onset of the examination since he said the hospital would need that before Dave could be discharged. Dave and I started having a small conversation about what we would do if they hadn’t released us, etc. Someone came and took Dave to the CT scan. (We still don’t know why they did that over an ultrasound.) When the scanner guy (technical term) was wheeling Dave back I asked them to see how rushed they could be because our almost 4 year old, whose birthday we were celebrating, was on the Disney ship and we’d all like to do the cruise together. This was at like 2:45-3 pm.

At the point that we had determined we were going to the hospital, the ship had sent down a guest services representative, who was essentially our liaison with the ship. She was fantastic. She had given me a number to call to reach her on the ship, and had indicated that she was going to just start calling me around 3 to see where we were.  She was also our contact to the Captain’s people if we were going to make it but be late, and then decisions would be made on how long they could wait for us. Man, the stress of an ill husband, a kid on the ship (that his parents weren’t on) and everything involved in both of that! I was thinking at some point, how do we tell our almost 4 year old who was excited about this cruise, that we weren’t going to be going on a cruise. But at 3:05 we heard talking near the nurses station, “who has 8. 8 gets to leave.” Dave was 8!! Oh my God. Oh my God! No one could believe how fast everything was going. The doctor came in and she said they did want to get us back on the ship with our son. She said that Dave had a small stone that everyone agreed was the best possible sized stone to have, apparently, and said we could sail.

There was paperwork stuff to leave the hospital. They removed his IV, gave us his check-out paperwork, and the radiology report which they said would be full of typos because typically these things get reviewed 3 times but because they were rushed no one reviewed it. Our liaison called and we told her we were being released from the hospital. She couldn’t believe it. She said to have our paperwork in our hand from the hospital to speed up the process plus the ship’s cards to get back on the ship. At this time we also learned we had to do another exam with the ship’s doctor for them to give him a ‘clear to sail’ because they don’t want a medical emergency on board, obviously, if it can be helped.

So at like 3:15 we were released and going to head back to the ship, and there were no Ubers available. We were like come on, so close, yet so far away. Our ship liaison called again and got us a good cab company. We had to wait on a cab and then we arrived back at like 4. It was crazy to be the only people anywhere in the terminal besides the workers. At this point the life boat drill had started, which we weren’t at. We had another ship personnel person waiting for us after security and she escorted us on to the ship for the second time and led us to our liaison from guest services.  She in turn escorted us back to the medical center.

At some point in the medical center during Dave’s follow-up visit (to check his ability to sail) I realized I was starving. I had left to see Dave at the ship’s doctor when my lunch had arrived and I got 3 bites of it before we learned we were doing the hospital thing and I had to go run like crazy to get stuff, find my mom and child, etc. My guest services gal called the concierge (since we had that kind of room) and requested food from them. Which was a fun challenge as everything was closed for the emergency life-boat drill, and I’m celiac and I can’t just eat anything. [We missed the lifeboat drill which was funny later as we received notes and calls constantly about it the first 2 days of the cruise. But we did complete the drill. Dave actually got to do a private one that lasted 3 minutes around 5 p.m. and he was able to represent for the family while I unpacked and mom my was off with Blake again. (It may have lasted longer, but the guy asked Dave how many cruises we’ve been on and when our last one was (which was March) and so he was able to speed through it a bit.] She brought us 3 plates of food (one with fruit, one with carrots/veggies, one with some allergy safe chicken tenders, and a box of gluten free cookies.) Then she apologized that it wasn’t something better- my God these people are amazing. I was like you brought a 4 course meal in no time when all the ship’s services are closed (because of the drill), I think you’re good.

I ate some and then we were released maybe just before 4:45 with a clear to sail. And fortunately Dave was able to get any medicine needed from the ship’s doctor. The staff all were so amazing.  Seriously, when he needed pain medication, they quickly put in an IV and got it started. They also were so quick with information about the best plan to get us back on this cruise ship.  And my husband really did well on the cruise.  He basically had pain pills that first day, but was totally normal.  He took Motrin the second day and some of the pills that would help the stone move along but that was all he ended up needing.  The pain turned into a small dull ache after that first day and he was totally normal by the end of the cruise.

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Everything was all so quick. It felt long and yet only a total of 4.5 hours or so had passed for that entire situation. It was a crazy day.

As far as bills. So far we’ve received a $500 bill from the ship. And we still have the ER bill and the ambulance bill to contend with. Thankfully our trip insurance will cover it all. This does make me want to add more medical coverage to my trip insurance policies in the future. Have you ever had a medical emergency during a trip? Are you a regular trip insurance purchaser?

Here is a picture of our little birthday boy so happy that he was able to cruise with his family.

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