Last Friday, October 2, a woman having a heart attack had to be rescued from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship by the United States Coast Guard.
The woman, aged 43, was taken ill with a heart attack some 115 miles off the coast of Galveston on Friday at four in the morning. The ship’s crew contacted the Coast Guard and they launched a helicopter to evacuate her to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
Having a heart attack on board ship is quite common but the ability of the on board medical staff to be able to assist will vary, depending on the size of the ship and the facilities available. Staff should be able to provide emergency medical care and carry out basic diagnoses but anything serious will usually necessitate the evacuation of the patient.
The cruise industry association, called Cruise Line International, lays down what ships must adhere to in terms of the standards and qualifications of the medical staff on board. They use the guidelines from the American College of Emergency Physicians which say the medical center should have the basic equipment necessary to deal with a heart emergency such as oxygen, EKG, two defibrillators, cardiac monitors and equipment necessary to check vital signs.
The ACEP also says the medical staff must be on call 24 hours a day and the personnel must have at least three years of post graduate experience in general and emergency medicine or they must have board certification in emergency medicine, family medicine or internal medicine.
However there will be no CT scanner, or MRI and no intensive care unit so if the heart attack is severe the patient will be disembarked either by boat or helicopter depending on the distance from land. That can also lead to issues as depending where it is there may not be the same standards of care or facilities as in the United States.