Serving as a cruise ship doctor with Regent Lines for four years gave Len Kreisler, MD enough stories for a chapter in his book ROLL THE DICE, PICK A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE Best. This story is an excerpt from that chapter.
The Hotel Manager asked me to come down to his office for a meeting with the ship’s Security Officer.
An unmarried couple, traveling together, had been drinking quite heavily. The man was 10 to 15 years older than his traveling companion. The alcohol unleashed his mean streak. Neighbors complained of noise and suspected violence. The Security Officer took the battered, inebriated woman to a vacant lounge area. The couple had been noisy and disruptive from the beginning of the cruise, and it was getting progressively worse. The Security Officer was now concerned about serious harm to the woman. I suggested they keep the man in his cabin and bring the woman down to medical. I offered to sedate the man if he balked at confinement to his cabin.
The lady was in her late 50’s and very drunk. Her clothes looked like she’d been sleeping in them for several days. Her nylon stockings were full of tears, hair disheveled and she smelled like leftover saloon yuck. I came up with the following plan.
I offered to have the nurse clean her up and get her into an infirmary bed. I’d start an intravenous (she certainly needed fluids) and I’d periodically add enough valium to keep her sleepy for the rest of the voyage. I planned to let her wake up 4-5 hours before docking in New York. I suggested telling her male companion, if he asked, that she was resting in a private cabin…doctor’s orders. Both ship’s officers were concerned about their liability. I promised to cover everything in the medical record; i.e. document that we’d taken the necessary action to protect these two patients from harming each other, as well as ensuring the health and safety of other passengers.
We docked in New York at midnight, 12 hours late due to a boiler issue that also severely limited the availability of hot water. No one was allowed to leave the ship until clearance early the next morning except for a severely ill probable cancer patient who was whisked to a waiting ambulance on the deserted dock in the dead of night. New York City police stood guard on the pier.
I stopped the intravenous and valium on my sleeping beauty patient and sent her back to her beau around 2:00 AM. She looked ten years younger and radiant as she left the ship around 10:00 AM that morning; hand in hand with her sobered sugar daddy. They could have passed as poster people for a senior honeymoon cruise….lovers without a care in the world. He paid the $1200 medical bill in cash.
The nurse and I each got 10% of the $1200. I thanked the nurse for her help and she thanked me for helping her make the most money she’d ever made on a 10-day cruise. We earned it. (This trip started in a storm with about 120 calls for nausea and vomiting and only got worse from there. People tripping and falling at the lifeboat drill, a heart attack death, a fainting man, the dehydrated probable cancer patient, and finally the drunk abuser.)
On one of my recent cruises, for the last couple days of the trip one cabin had a security guard posted outside the door 24 hours a day. The guards wouldn’t say why they were there, but it could have been a situation similar to the one above. Or someone under house arrest perhaps. Obviously they did not want that person to leave the room and did not trust them to stay in there on their own. The ships do have a brig so if anybody really did something awful they do have a place to put them.
More stories from Dr. Len: