This is my friend Matt. He is an ER Nurse on a Cruise Ship and has traveled the world doing it. He has been keeping me updated on his travels for several years now about the amazing places he’s seen and the crazy things he’s done. Sadly, there is a shitty side to every job. Here’s his last post:
Sorry I haven’t emailed in a while. There is a reason. As you are well aware I do some complaining now and then about the ship but most of it is in good fun. Now, however, I found the one horrible thing about cruise ship nursing. Remember when I told you about the Super-Duper-Room-Pooper on New Year’s and I said it was an omen of either a year filled with crazy stories or a year filled with shit. Its shit! For the last 15 days the ship has been flooded with waves of diarrhea and vomit. 4 inches of bodily fluids are standing on the medical center floor. Noro Virus has hit the ship. Noro virus is a virus that is spread from ass to mouth contact. Yeah, nice image huh? Someone shits diarrhea all over their bathroom, little poop particle float in the air. The diarrheaer wipes his ass, washes his hands but then touches the door handle that has these noro virus poop particles on it. Now the poop particles are on his hand. He has an itch on his leg and scratches it transferring some of the particles to his pants. He decides that he is hungry so he goes in the hall touching the railings transferring more poop particles along the way. He makes it up to the big buffet where they spray hand sanitizer on his hands. Right before he reaches for the tongs to the salad his leg itches again so he scratches it and picks up poop particles he had put there earlier. Now he proceeds to touch every tong, spoon and fork in the buffet line while he loads up his plate, even though his stomach already hurts. By the time he is done and running back to his room to diarrhea all over the place he has touched 198 surfaces and infected countless passengers. Fucking poop particles.
I was lucky enough to be working day shift where day one 4 people came in. Oh a little spike in poopers no worries. Day 2 twelve people come in, Ut oh. Day three 50 people come to the medical center with vomiting and diarrhea. 50 people in my 8 hour shift plus the 17 other passengers that wanted to be seen for their other complaints. Here I am the only nurse working. The AGE (acute gastroenteritis) pts aren’t allowed to touch the paperwork so I have to fill it all out, 4 pages front and back on EACH AGE pt. Then go over the medications and the plan of care with each pt. On 20 of them I started IV fluids. While all of this is going on the phone is ringing off the hook with the captain, staff captain, shore side administrators all wanting to know what is going on and the current counts. I am 20 people behind and yet I have to update this crazy ass log for the CDC that takes at least a minute per person to fill out. I counted and it has 52 boxes to write or click on per passenger. I am trying to do all this, the phone is going crazy, another lady just walked in and said I don’t feel goooooooo….vomits in the garbage next to me and then I see her pants pop out like a cartoon and then the diarrhea oozing down her pant leg onto the floor. She continues to vomit and diarrhea at the same time, looks up at me with bile vomit dripping stingingly from her face and says “help me.” I respond with “I will ma’am once you stop oozing.” I do the best I can with her as 10 more people come in. The phone is going nuts. The other pts want their bills and I am the only one that can do it because doctors have no clue. So now I am on the computer to type all the discharge notes, the meds, the diagnosis and the billing codes for insurance then print that out and go over to my Micros thing and input it all like I am your bartender printing out your bill. This bill process is super time consuming. Oh my god the phone won’t stop, did she stop oozing, shit the CDC is calling. Now Security calls “aaahh we have an injury on deck 12, it looks like his arm is broken.” ahhhhhhhhh! I run up to deck twelve to find an old man lying there. “Sir your arm elbow looks dislocated.” I think ‘at least he hasn’t shat himself……yet.’ I help him up and not on purpose I pop it back in….okay maybe I tried but it’s out of my scope so it was “on accident” that I put it back in. I wheel him to the medical center that is now standing room only. I then have to do his x-ray with the right kVp and mAs and then upload it and blah blah blah. Yep I had indeed put it back in with no fractures seen on my excellent x-ray. Oh no someone else just squirted diarrhea on my floor. The phone is staring to overheat its ringing so much. Chaos could have consumed me.
So this is how it’s been constantly. I end up working 15 hour days for 9 days straight. No lunches, no pee breaks and NO OVERTIME PAY, yep I’m salary. Oh and no other nurse came in to help me while I worked day shift, the busiest shift, but I was expected to stay to help them because I implemented a system to streamline people and keep order in this chaotic situation. Oh and because I am a team player. I was pissed that I was the main worker seeing 90% of the shitters but I was also a little prideful and in my element in this disaster like setting. Bring it bitches. Throw as much shit at me and I can handle it! Well as long as it’s not baby shit, the worst kind.
The ship gets put into Code Red status, which means no open buffets where everything needs to be served to both the pax and the crew. The crew sanitizes everything again and again every 10 minutes. Hand washers that say “washy washy” all day and it seems like they sanitize your hands every 15 feet (Funny thing, look up “washy washy” on urban dictionary). People’s hands have never been cleaner. Hell we could rob anything right now because not one of us have any fingerprints left. By the end of the cruise those who were still actively squirting and oozing were escorted off first and quarantined somewhere, I imagine in a wearhouse with biohazard curtains like in the movie E.T. Elliott, Elliott, Elliot (God I love the movie E.T).
We reach Miami where the CDC, US Public Health, the Health Director of the entire fleet and several other big wigs are waiting for us. The crazy thing is both doctors and one nurse were signing off so who was the only one that knew what the hell was going on, This Guy. For 10 hours I dealt with US Public Health and the CDC. It was a crazy intense experience representing the ship and company that I really shouldn’t have been a part of. I did however answer all of their questions and somehow I did not sound bitter and completely exhausted. They explain that if it continues the ship will be grounded when we get back to LA.
It continues! We leave port and within 12 hours we have 5 AGE cases. By day 5 we have 30 cases and with 6 days left to LA if we only get 6 more cases we will be grounded.
As many of you know I really wasn’t 100% on coming back to the ship. The only reason I did was to check off the Panama Canal, CHECKED . Other than that the novelty of the job was wearing thin. Now I have been on the ship one month and I have only been off 2 fucking times. Two times off the ship, that’s awful and it’s not looking like things are going to change.
I told myself ‘okay Mr. Matthew, if your Seahawks win against those asshole 49ers, god I hate them, I will resign to come home to see the Super Bowl with my family’. During the outbreak I demanded the time off and I watched the game in all my Seahawks garb including a stocking cap, a jersey, a poncho and two flags. I almost died of anxiety and a heat stroke. It was a crazy game and somehow we won. Well I have never quit anything so then I tell myself a new rule ‘if the outbreak continues I will quit’. The outbreak continues. Well I needed one more reason. The ship then decides the nurses on the ship will now work mandatory 12 hour shifts to overlap each other. I could handle that until I did the worst thing possible, MATH. I calculated how much money I would have made in those 9 days of 15 hour shifts and now 12 hour shifts 7 days a week for at least 3 more weeks. I almost shit my own pants cartoon style when that number came up on my calculator. Almost 14 times more money would have been made back home due to overtime. I almost jumped off the ship right then. Seriously, 14 times! Ouch!
The final straw that broke this camel’s back was that fact that they are now for sure going to ground the ship in LA for 3 days and super sanitize everything while keeping the crew quarantined on the ship. No activities and no television in those 3 days while they sanitize. I realized that meant, No Super Bowl. I filled out my resignation papers today. I can stand working my ass off, getting vomited on multiple times a day, getting screamed at by the captain for not getting a report sent in 5 minutes early, getting grilled by the CDC, having absolutely no sleep due to the orgies going on around me in my paper thin walled micro cabin in the bowels of the ship, even being incredibly under paid for my work but you tell me I can’t watch my Seahawks play in the Super Bowl then adios muchachos.
I agreed to stay up to Cabo so they can find a replacement. I plan on getting off and spending one night decompressing then flying home on a direct flight.
I have never quit anything in my life but this is ridiculous and there are plenty more adventure out there to be had that don’t involve so much shit, poop, diarrhea, scat, crap, grossness. It’s time to close the chapter on cruise ship nursing. It’s been an interesting chapter, with crazy characters, amazing locations, grand adventures and so much more.
What will the next chapter be? Hopefully it’s one with less poop!