Crew Stories: My Injury on Cruise Ship, Treatment On Board, and Medical Off

Oct 16, 2019

The floor in the Crew Mess was slippery that day because the cleaning crew did a deep washing. I slipped and fell down to the floor, and had a feeling that the whole ship turned with me. My right leg slipped and my hands were holding the tray firmly. Because of this I fell and hit the floor hard with my left elbow.

 A very sweet Brazilian girl helped me to stand up and escorted me to the medical department. I was roughed up and the doctor kept asking if I had hit my head. They put me in a hospital bed and started running all kinds of tests, they asked me a lot of questions and there was a lot of paperwork. Security managed to photograph my shoes and there were a few questions about that too. I remembered the biggest and most important argument that goes in my favor which was the “Wet Floor” sign that was missing. It’s a sign of danger and warning for all of us to adjust to the wet floor with everything that we have to carry. 

On a surface like that, there should be at least two of these signs, but obviously the cleaning crew messed up.

In short, I had a bit of a headache but my hand was really hurting. The doctor was South African and he wasn’t specialized for anything. He looked very scared, he kept looking at the protocol table and asked: “Do you feel this, what do you feel now, etc”. It was a lot of pointless questions and it took him over an hour to ask them all. 

I was in a lot of pain and at one point I just said: “Can you please stop with the questions and give me something for the pain because my hand is really hurting”. He was confused by that but he realized I was telling the truth when he looked at me. They gave me another pain killer Ibubrufen and told me to go to my cabin. 

They also gave a “sleeve” to put on and I was told to put my hand in a comfortable position until I got better or until we reached America where I could go to the hospital and an orthopedic specialist. I spent the next ten days in that condition until we reached New York, where I got off the ship and went for a scan and an appropriate examination. 

I felt a strong pain in my elbow and I couldn’t feel two fingers. They were numb all the time and I couldn’t have a firm grip with that hand. One day before we reached New York the onboard doctor asked me some more questions, he tried to convince me that I was fine and that I should get back to work. I could not believe what he was saying. 

It took all my will power not to explode on him so I just said “Doctor, I carry the tray in my right hand. That hand is strong and I have faith in it, but I serve drinks to the guests with my left hand.

Sometimes I can’t feel three fingers in my left hand plus I can’t even straighten it fully. Imagine if I dropped a cocktail or a beer glass on a passenger and spilled everything on them. It would be a scandal for the company and I would get a part of the blame, but the other part would be yours because you made the wrong call about my hand”. He just looked at me knowing that I was right. He pulled a piece of paper, inputted all the information about my condition and his opinion, signed it and told that I was getting off the ship tomorrow to see a specialist. A small victory for me.

I knew there was something wrong with my hand. My health is the most important thing and I was not going to let someone tell me how I’m feeling and what they think I need to do. I can’t say that I didn’t understand his position. After all, these examinations are expensive and they cost the Company a lot of money, and his loyalty was to the Company, not to me. But I was sure about my injury and the truth and I didn’t want to back down. 

A driver waited for me next to the ship in the morning and he took me to get an MRI. It was very painful because the nurses and technicians pulled my hand in various directions in order to get the best position for the scanner. They had to make three scans. That whole thing finally ended and now I had my scans. The driver took me to see a specialist so he could look at the scans and give his official diagnosis. 

His practice was on the last floor of a normal building and it didn’t look anything like a hospital. 

When I entered the practice I was a bit shocked because it looked just like a regular office. The secretary gave me a questionnaire to fill out. 

After about fifteen minutes she asked me to follow her to the doctor’s office. It was a long walk through the small offices that were full of people with headphones. I thought that I was on a movie set. I entered the office and I was greeted by the doctor. He was about 40 with a big smile on his face, he assured me that I was in good hands and that everything is going to be resolved. I spent about ten minutes with him explaining the pain I was feeling and that I don’t feel sure enough to do my job. I said that it’s just better for me to go home and run further tests and therapies if needed. He looked at the scans and notices some nerve damage and that this is the reason why my fingers are numb. It’s a condition called Epicondylitis Lateralis. He explained everything to me very clearly and he called his secretary to tell her his opinion about the final report and for me to go home for medical off.

The Doctor in New York saved me. Everything was done so quickly and I was amazed by him, how professional and quick he was. It took him fifteen minutes to finish something that the ship's medical team wasn’t able to do for days. I took his report and went to the onboard doctor with a smile on my face because this is what I needed to go home. After almost two painful weeks I could finally go home. The final decision was made I was clear to go home, my flight would be from Boston where we were set to port next. I collected all the documentation that I could – the medical documentation and the security report about the missing Wet Floor sign. After I spoke with a good friend I concluded that I was treated poorly and that they were to incompetent to treat my injury adequately.

When I got home I had to prepare for another battle. I didn’t know which doctor I should see, what therapy they should subscribe and if my hand was going to get better. I got a little medical book from the ship doctors and they told me to email the Main Office in Italy. 

That they will assist me with everything. There were parts about Workplace Injuries and the Company is supposed to pay benefits and monthly payouts. 

I wrote a very good email and sent it to the Main office. Five full days had almost passed and I still didn’t get a response. 

I was disappointed and a bit desperate because urgency was necessary here. I was in a lot of pain and with almost no money. I had about 1.000 Dollars that I’ve earned for the four weeks that I spent working, and that was it.

I had problems with my further medical exams because I could not make any appointments at the medical facilities that the Company suggested. There were a lot of misunderstandings about the exams and therapy because they were not sure if the Company would pay for all that. 

But in the end, the Company paid my medical expenses, I translated everything into English and sent everything to them. It was up to them to clear me Fit for duty.

If my injury was more serious and with greater consequences I would have sued the Company. Luckily my hand was getting better. But after everything that happened I had serious doubts about returning to work on cruise ships.

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