HONOLULU – An ailing Hawaii-bound cruise ship passenger received life-saving blood, thanks to a delivery from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The woman, 67, needed blood while aboard the Carnival Spirit, which was on a 15-day Hawaii cruise that departed San Diego on Jan. 20.
Doctors on the ship contacted the Coast Guard in Honolulu for help Monday, and the cruise line coordinated with the blood bank at Tripler Army Medical Center on Oahu to provide blood from the passenger, who was suffering from undisclosed medical complications, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard picked up medical supplies and the blood, which was packaged on ice in boxes, from the hospital and took them to Air Station Barbers Point. A crew on an HC-130 Hercules airplane flew more than 900 miles Tuesday morning to reach the cruise ship northeast of Hilo, said Lt. Luke Braham, who piloted the plane.
With Braham flying the plane 200 feet over the ship, crew members repackaged the boxes with foam and extra ice into metal drum "drop cans." The cans were rigged to parachutes and dropped out of the plane, landing on the water to be pulled onto the ship, Braham said.
Braham said Wednesday he has piloted similar missions before. "It doesn't happen real often, but we train quite regularly to do this type of mission to any vessel that requests it," he said.
The mission was complete by 7:15 a.m. Tuesday. The ship arrived in Hilo on Wednesday — the cruise's first scheduled port of call — and the woman was taken to Hilo Medical Center. Privacy law prevented the Coast Guard from providing details about the medical complications that required the blood.
"We checked with our medical personnel and have been told that she is doing fine and recovering," said Vance Gulliksen, a Carnival spokesman.
"It was a total team effort," Braham said of the eight-person crew. "It's a great feeling to go home at the end of the day to know you've helped someone in need."