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Our experience of being medically disembarked

In May 2023, we were invited onto P&O Cruises brand new ship Arvia, on a 2 weeks Mediterranean cruise, as a thank you for my year of work with them helping them launch Arvia and bring her to life! I’d had an incredible time as an “Arvia Insider” and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. More on that in another blog post!

All did not go to plan though. And soon I was asked to write about what happened for Sail Away Magazine. Below is that very editorial.

This is a tough story, but an important one. Let’s start at the beginning…

It’s August 2022 and I receive a phone-call from P&O Cruises, they ask me to be an official Arvia Insider! The partnership will entail lots of different events and experiences so I can help bring their newest ship, Arvia, to life via my YouTube channel. It was a dream come true! What I didn’t know was that phone-call, a few months later, would end up saving my little boy’s life. 

I was whisked off to London for an incredible Food and Wine Masterclass with P&O Cruises local food hero’s Jose Pizarro and Olly Smith, I visited the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany to walk Arvia’s decks whilst she was still being built and I even attended the BAFTA’s!

To round off the experience, I was very kindly gifted a 14 night Mediterranean Cruise on Arvia herself. And that is where my story really begins.

I spent my early twenties working onboard cruise ships but this was my 1st cruise as a passenger! We didn’t know what to expect but our 5 year old, Henry, was borderline obsessed with kids club, our baby, Jack, loved running around on deck and we loved the drinks package!

All was going swimmingly, and then one morning, it all changed. 

We were enjoying a lazy cabin morning at sea. We jumped into the virtual queue for breakfast and headed off downstairs. Henry became really tired and climbed into the pram, he’d had a late night at kids club so we didn’t think much of it. Within 10 minutes though he clearly wasn’t ok, so we decided to take him to the medical centre. It took the grand total of 90 seconds to get down to the medical centre and in the care of their team. They hooked him straight up to monitors and before we knew it he was un-rousable. The next 2 hours I can only describe as a living nightmare. 

The doctors and nurses worked on him to try and bring him back round, Jack sat silently on Daddy’s lap sucking his thumb, whilst I held Henry’s hand, telling him to stay awake up and that everything’s ok. 

Through all of this, the medical team contacted the Hotel department to ensure we had support for whatever we needed, they arranged for members of Kids Club to come down to the medical centre and play with Jack in the room next door and let him nap.

Eventually Henry did come back round, he was awake and alert but unstable.

Captain Camby and the Senior Doctor made the decision that Henry needed care on land. Captain Camby came down to see us and talk with Henry, this when we were told Arvia was going faster than she had ever been before and that they had decided Malaga would be the best point for us to be medically disembarked. He was so kind to us, Henry still tells us he wants to be Captain of his cruise ship (he thinks Arvia is our ship!)

What I vividly remember about that day is how I put all my energy into showing a brave face, for Henry’s sake, for Jacks and for Carls. But it was all terrifying, Henry was not ok, I had no idea what was coming next, the thought of leaving Arvia and her safety was harrowing. I felt safe in their care and I didn’t know what being taken to a strange hospital in a foreign country would look like.

With Arvia going full steam ahead, the team had to sedate Henry and carry out some other procedures to try and stabilise him, we took it in turns to stay with Henry and with Jack next door. Room service kept us fed and watered (I have certainly never eaten such wonderful food whilst in a hospital setting!) and whilst Jack napped, we began taking it in turns to head back up to the cabin and get as much as we could packed up. 

I remember being up in the cabin alone, standing in the balcony, watching us speed past the southern coast of Spain, the Med was almost serene, even with the speed we were going. I began recording my thoughts at this point, I’d been trying to hold it all together for so long and I could feel the cracks appearing, so I started talking to my camera. And it helped. A lot. I gathered my thoughts, I got control of my emotions and forced myself to try and think logically about what we needed to take off the ship with us and what could stay and be shipped back to us later.

I realised we didn’t have enough nappies for Jack as we had planned on buying more the next day in Cadiz. I ended up wondering through the Skydome and asking any parents with children that looked a similar age to Jack if I could have a couple of nappies. I happened to ask a gentleman who was actually Arvia’s other Safety Officer who was cruising with his family whilst on leave. They were so kind and dropped lots of nappies, wet wipes and even colouring pencils and books to the Medical Centre for us.

I then took Jack up to Horizon Buffet for dinner and it was there that Captain Camby made his announcement. It was heart wrenching, I have heard many medical announcements onboard through my years of being a crew member but never did I expect to hear it about my own child. 

The captain had told us earlier that he wouldn’t announce that it was a child who had been taken poorly, he said he would say it was a younger guest and let passengers draw their own conclusion. Hearing other people’s reactions to the announcement was very emotional, most people around me seemed to guess it was a child and were clearly upset and very worried.

By the evening, we began pulling into Malaga, we were incredible nervous, we knew that a private ambulance would be coming onboard to take Henry & I to hospital whilst Carl & Jack went to a nearby hotel. When the ambulance crew came onboard, there was a big language barrier, they didn’t seem to have the equipment they need to keep Henry stable and I remember turning to our doctor and pleading with him to not let them take us if they couldn’t look after Henry properly. He promised they wouldn’t and after some stern words from the Senior Doctor who categorically told them “if you don’t have the right equipment you are not taking this child”, I cried right there and then, Arvia’s team still had our backs and were not prepared to let us off the ship without knowing we had the care we needed. The ship ended up loaning the ambulance medical equipment to get Henry safely to hospital, the Port Agent collected the equipment from the hospital the next morning and sent it to La Corûna for Arvia to pick up on the next cruise.

Saying goodbye to the medical team was heartbreaking, hugs, tears, all underneath the eyes of passengers up above on deck watching it all play out.

We spent the next few days in Malaga in hospital, then in a hotel waiting for flights home. 

When we finally touched down at Bristol and we stepped off the plane, I told Henry we were home and I burst into tears again. 

I cannot describe the relief of being on home turf, but there is no relief greater than knowing we were in the right place at the right time. Where else would we have received such phenomenal care within 90 seconds of us realising our child was not ok? When I received the phone-call from P&O Cruises all those months ago, I couldn’t get my head around how little old me with my tiny YouTube Channel had been chosen to be an Arvia Insider but I truly believe it was fate that intervened to ensure our little boy lived to tell the tale. I cannot thank Arvia’s whole medical team, especially Nurse Emily who sat with us monitoring Henry for hours on end, Captain Camby, the ship’s crew, all the passengers who helped us with nappies, for the hundreds of kind messages and comments from you all and of course to P&O Cruise for their well wishes and for employing such amazing crew-members.

Here’s to our next cruise, keep your fingers crossed for a smoother sailing!

The full video about our Medical Disembarkation experience is on our YouTube Channel @everafteradventures alongside our full Arvia Cruise vlog series and all my Arvia Insider event videos.

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