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What Happens If You Choke while on a Cruise Ship?

May 13, 2019

Choking While on a Cruise Ship

Did you know that the inventor of our innovative anti-choking device, The Dechoker, actually got his idea while training for a ship captain’s license? It’s true! In 2009, experienced boater Alan Carver was training for a special 200-ton certification, and during the medical training portion of the course, he started to think about what would happen if he were alone at sea and he had a choking emergency.

Most of us aren’t ship captains, but it’s still an intriguing question. What if you were in an isolated place — say, on a cruise ship — and you choked on your all-you-can-eat crab legs? There’s no calling an ambulance when you’re out at sea. So what happens?

Most cruise ships have at least one doctor and multiple nurses on board, with larger ships often having multiple doctors, according to Cruise Critic. Emergency medical services providers such as EMTs and paramedics are not commonly employed by cruise lines, because ships generally have fully trained nurses and doctors available at all hours, as well as fully stocked infirmaries and pharmacy supplies. That said, in the case of serious medical emergencies such as a heart attack or injury that might require ongoing care and monitoring, patients are usually transferred off the cruise ship to the nearest hospital in port.

On a large cruise ship, though, the likelihood that a doctor or nurse would be near you when you choke could be low. Say you’re in a dining room near the top of the ship, and the medical staff are in an infirmary below deck, at least a few minutes away from reaching you, if not more. Those moments are precious in a choking emergency, as brain damage is possible after just 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen.

Many cruise ship workers undergo basic safety training (often called STCW) that includes first-aid care. However, this training varies somewhat in depth and subject matter across nations and cruise lines, and there is no guarantee that a crew member would be able to competently perform standard choking treatments such as back slaps or abdominal thrusts, commonly known as the Heimlich maneuver. These treatments can often leave choking victims with broken ribs even when administered by a trained professional. With just basic rhetorical training, a typical cruise ship worker, for instance a young server in a ship restaurant, may not have the confidence to perform such life-saving measures.

The scary truth is that if you choke on a cruise ship, a trained medical professional may not be able to provide you care for several minutes. Anecdotal evidence from cruise passengers about choking seems to indicate that a person might be just as likely to get help from another diner as from staff.

The choking standards of care are lacking, not just on cruise ships, but everywhere. Our goal is to add our alternative anti-choking treatment, The Dechoker, to every first-aid kit in every ship, restaurant, school and other public place around the world. Our easy-to-use device uses suction to remove the food or object, often clearing a victim’s airway in just seconds. It has already saved the lives of dozens of choking victims worldwide, and we want that trend to continue, on both land and sea.

We invite you to learn more about the Dechoker and how it works here.

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