"" Writer's Wanderings: World Cruise - Medical Emergencies at Sea

Friday, March 20, 2015

World Cruise - Medical Emergencies at Sea

Twice within three days, we had a medical emergency. The first occurred on our sea day between Melbourne and Adelaide. We were in that really rough period with oceans swells between 10 and 20 feet at times. That morning the bells that chime on the PA system sounded to let us know there was an announcement coming. Bob and I were about to head for the dining room and breakfast and we stopped to listen.

The captain came on and said that we had a medical emergency that required evacuation from the ship. He cautioned that in about forty minutes we would be making a turn and the waves would be coming from a different direction. “Please use handrails and caution as we need to turn to go closer to a port on shore.”

We sat in the dining room as the turn was made and it wasn’t nearly as bad as expected. Finished with breakfast, we went up to Deck 12’s Palm Court to get a view of where we were headed. There actually was a port, a very small port that we had not seen on our drive a few years ago from Adelaide to Melbourne.

From our vantage point we watched the ship head to calmer waters and a coast guard boat come out to meet us. At first we thought they would be taking the passenger but it turned out that they had medical personnel on board who hopped aboard one of our tenders when it was lowered to the water. We suspect the patient was already in the tender as it was lowered.

All the time this was going on, a pod of dolphins were playing around the Coast Guard boat. It was surreal. We watched the tender head for shore and about forty-five minutes later, it came back and we were on our way again. The patient was on his way to a hospital in Melbourne where we heard later he was doing much better.

On the way from Adelaide to Albany we had two sea days. Sometime in the afternoon, Bob suddenly noticed that the ship was heading away from the sun instead of into it. Sure enough, an announcement came that we had another medical emergency. (We found out later that this time an 84 year old lady was having a heart attack or stroke.) We were literally miles from nowhere at this point. Where were they going?

The answer came while we were in the dining room. While we still couldn’t see a shore line clearly we noticed a helicopter circling the ship which was now in some calmer waters where it was less windy. There was no chance to watch but what we heard was that a basket was lowered and the lady was taken by helicopter ashore—possibly to an airfield to be flown by the flying doctors that Australia is so famous for.

The  turned once again and picked up speed to make up for lost time. The captain put pedal to the medal—all five generators were reportedly fired up and we were doing something like 21 knots which I believe is about 24 land mph. Eventually we heard that the lady was doing better too. Her husband got off the ship when it docked in Albany a day later.

There is a stretch of Indian Ocean where there is nothing we can see from Perth to the first small islands where we stop. We kind of wonder what would happen if we have an emergency then. I hope we don’t find out.

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