An Apple a Day…

Day 71, Grand Asia 2017

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 – At Sea

One department on the Amsterdam that no one wants to visit is the Medical Office. Fortunately, I haven’t had any need for medical attention. But for those who have, it has been a welcome service.

A respiratory illness has been going around the ship since almost the beginning. Sometimes I wonder if I should just leave the watercolor room (the King’s Room off the dining room) because of the number of coughers. As I sit here in the Crow’s Nest, I hear at least three people coughing. A number have gone to medical and received antibiotics and decongestants.

The dreaded norovirus erupts on some ships. It is a disease of the intestinal tract, and ships that have an outbreak take special precautions. Anyone with a fever is quarantined to their room until their fever breaks. Sometimes in the buffet servers will handle all the serving pieces and actually salt and pepper your food, or give you paper packets with seasonings. No passing the bread bowl in the dining room – the waiters dispense it.

We are fortunate that we haven’t had an outbreak. I think it is in part because this is a ship of seasoned cruisers, and we know to frequently wash our hands and use a paper towel to open the public bathroom doors when we leave.

There have been reports (okay, rumors) of passengers who have left the ship in ports because of broken bones or other illnesses. I haven’t heard of any deaths, but some passengers who came on board in Sydney from an Australian circumnavigation on the Maasdam said two passengers died on that cruise. Heart attacks are the culprit, I hear.

img_2322The medical office on this cruise is staffed with South Africans. The office is open for a few hours in the morning and late afternoon, and of course any time there is an emergency. They have basic equipment and medications and can reach the University Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for any needed consultations. The Galveston facility has a special department that provides support to ships worldwide.

One of my friends fell down some stairs early in the cruise, and x-rays showed no broken bones – just severe strains in both ankles. She was given a wheelchair to use for a few days and instructed to stay off her feet. She has gone back a few times to have her ankles checked out. So far, her bill is running to nearly $1,000. I hear seeing a doctor costs about $280. This is when it is good to have a travel insurance policy that covers such expenses.

[A few years ago, my mother needed to have two stitches removed during a cruise, and her doctor told her to go to the medical office onboard to have them removed. She and I decided the scissors in her manicure set would work fine, and we saved the money for drinks.]

I know another woman who had a respiratory illness that wouldn’t go away. She was somewhat limited in what medications she could take due to allergies. And the doctor was concerned that she might have heart issues. She was packed up and sent off the ship in Cairns, Australia. The hospital there said she had no heart issues and just needed a medication that wasn’t available on the ship. They put her in a taxi and sent her back, but the ship officials would not let her back on board before they consulted with the land-based physicians.

Another passenger had a foot sore that wasn’t healing, and nothing the doctor did seemed to help. He, too, left the ship in Cairns, along with his wife. He had surgery in the hospital there and was able to fly to Sydney and rejoin the ship five days later. Interestingly, I hear his travel insurance would have paid for him to fly back to the states, but not to fly on to Sydney to catch the ship.

It’s nice to know the medical office is there, but I’m hoping I won’t learn much more about it.