HOUSTON (CN) – Carnival Cruise Lines had an incompetent crew member stand in for a nurse and he gave a passenger useless enemas for her critically obstructed bowel, her widower claims in Federal Court.
John Showers sued Carnival, its doctor and nurse, and the John Doe crew member on his own behalf and for his late wife, Victoria. He seeks more than $5 million in damages.
Showers claims that when Victoria eventually did see the ship’s doctor he sent her to a hospital in Belize, knowing it was not qualified to perform the surgery she needed.
By the time Victoria was flown to a hospital in Miami, Showers says, fecal matter had entered her gut, and treatment “could only prolong her dying process.”
Showers says the trouble started the day after he and Victoria boarded the Carnival Dream in Miami for a Caribbean cruise and she complained of constipation. She went ashore in Cozumel, Mexico the next day, Showers says, and bought some over-the-counter laxatives that did not relieve her stomach pain. She could not eat that evening.
“In the morning of November 2, 2010, while the ship was anchored in Belize waters, Victoria developed severe abdominal pain and was unable to walk. As a result, at 9:00 a.m., plaintiff began calling for a wheelchair to take his wife to the Medical Clinic on the ship,” the complaint states.
Showers says that Carnival had advertised it had qualified medical staff on call 24 hours a day for emergencies.
“The Carnival Dream had onboard four nurses and two physicians who were purportedly competent to handle the medical needs of its passengers,” the complaint states.
But the crew did not get Victoria a wheelchair until 10:30 a.m., Showers says, and he wheeled her to the medical clinic “with the expectation, based on Carnival’s representations, that the ship’s doctor or other qualified medical personnel would be on duty or available to provide necessary attention because of the severity of her pain and discomfort.”
“At that time Mrs. Showers was dressed only in her underwear and the ship’s bathrobe, wore no make-up and had not combed her hair.
“On arrival at the ship’s Medical Clinic, John Doe, the male Unidentified Crewmember, was in attendance behind a teller like opening or window. He was wearing a ship’s officer’s uniform with a tag that read ‘RN,’ and had an insignia badge or similar device that identified him as a ship’s officer or crew member,” the complaint states.
Showers claims that under Carnival’s policies, its nurse, defendant Lolita Karpiene, was supposed to be on duty, but she had the crew member stand in for her.
“The unidentified crew member was incompetent and not qualified to render the nursing care and evaluation reasonably necessary to properly evaluate or conduct a triage or to care for Mrs. Showers at that time. Nonetheless, defendant Karpiene entrusted this unidentified crew member to care for the severely ill Mrs. Showers,” the complaint states.
“Plaintiff explained to the unidentified crew member that his wife was in severe pain in her upper abdominal area and was extremely constipated. Plaintiff believed that the unidentified crew member was a registered nurse based on the uniform tag. The unidentified crew member did not perform any examination, and did not take any history or ask any other questions, did not palpate Victoria’s abdomen, and did not take her vital signs.”
Instead, Showers says, the Doe defendant gave Victoria a “Fleet Enema” that did not relieve her constipation.
“Although one of the two physicians assigned to the Carnival Dream was supposed to be on board the ship, the unidentified crew member failed to notify the physician of Victoria’s condition; rather the unidentified crew member advised plaintiff to return to the medical clinic at 3:30 p.m. when the ship’s doctor would be on duty,” the complaint states.
When the first enema failed, Showers says, he sought further help and the John Doe crew member gave him another enema for Victoria, which also did not work.
Showers says he took Victoria back to the clinic around 3:30 p.m. and she was seen by Karpiene initially then the ship’s doctor, Cvetanka Bulajic.
“Defendant Bulajic performed an examination, and concluded that Victoria was severely impacted and had a bowel obstruction. Defendant Bulajic told plaintiff that his wife’s condition was an emergency and that if the fecal matter was not immediately removed, she would ‘explode,'” according to the complaint.
“Defendant Bulajic stated that Victoria had to be immediately taken ashore to the hospital in Belize, where the ship was anchored, for emergency treatment to prevent serious complications.
“The doctor represented that the hospital in Belize was ‘a good hospital to which they sent sick crew members for medical care when sickbay couldn’t handle the problem.’
“Contrary to the doctor’s representations, and as later confirmed by the United States State Department, and known to Carnival and Bulajic, the availability of advanced medical treatment in Belize is limited, even in Belize City,” the complaint states.
Victoria was “taken via a launch from the ship to the dock, and transported by ambulance to the Belize Medical Center,” Showers says.
He says a doctor there confirmed Victoria’s bowel obstruction but the hospital could not perform the emergency care she needed.
“Plaintiff was required to make arrangements for emergency Medevac through Mondile Assistance to provide for a special air evacuation flight from Belize City to Miami on November 3, 2010,” according to the complaint.
Showers says Victoria was admitted early the next morning to Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, where emergency surgery found that “peritoneal contamination of her abdomen gave Victoria virtually no chance of survival. Medical treatment at that time could only prolong her dying process.”
Showers adds: “Victoria was hospitalized from November 4, 2010 until December 22, 2010. During this time she was subjected to multiple surgical procedures, treatment for bowel obstruction, infection and complications from this condition, including shock, pneumonia and acute kidney injury. Notwithstanding the continuous intensive care and treatment, and the severe pain and suffering she endured, Victoria died on December 22, 2010.”
Showers seeks damages from Carnival for negligence and wrongful death and from Doe, Bulajic and Karpiene for medical negligence.
He is represented by Thomas N. Lightsey III of Houston.