Mother’s Carnival Cruise ends in dramatic medevac after son ‘didn’t seem ok’

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A Massachusetts mother recalled the harrowing turn her family cruise took after her son experienced a life-threatening medical emergency 350 nautical miles from the nearest hospital onshore. 

The Carnival Cruise Lines’ Venezia had set sail on April 26 from New York City for a 10-day cruise to the Bahamas and through the Caribbean. But several days into the trip, the ship’s medics took X-rays and determined that 12-year-old Aiden had a perforated bowel that would require immediate surgery.

Rescuers flew 1,200 miles over eight hours and needed three air-to-air refuelings to medevac mother Angela Bridges and her son from the ship in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the U.S. Air Force 920th Rescue Wing. 

Dramatic photos posted by the group showed the boy and his mother being hoisted up into one of two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters that rushed to their aid. Two HC-130J Combat King II aircraft and two teams of combat rescue officers based at Patrick Space Force Base in Florida were called to the scene.

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“Getting hoisted up there was honestly a lot less scary than I thought it was going to be,” Bridges told Fox News Digital. “It was much more terrifying to watch them hoist my son up in the basket than to go up myself.”

Bridges said the boy wasn’t “responsive enough” to be frightened during the rescue, but that he was still recovering from the “traumatic” experience. 

“He’s much better than he was, even a couple of days ago. He’s definitely a lot better than he was on the ship,” Bridges said of her son’s condition. 

After surgery, the mother said, doctors at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in North Carolina “still don’t know why this happened.” 

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Bridges told Fox News Digital that her husband, step-daughter and 12-year-old son Aiden were ecstatic for their 10-day excursion on the Venezia – but their excitement turned to concern when the boy’s health took a drastic downturn. 

Aiden couldn’t keep down any food for several days – but because it was their first cruise trip, his family initially thought he was seasick or that he had overeaten at the ship’s buffet. 

“He was just throwing up and didn’t seem OK,” Bridges said. 

Rescuers were contacted when medical staff realized that they couldn’t help the boy. But Bridges was astounded at the lengths staff took to keep her, her family and her son comfortable. 

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“I’m not a medical professional by any means, but I do know a lot of medical things. They handled the situation amazingly. Their communication, their overall support for Aiden and myself and my husband and my daughter … they were great,” Bridges said. 

Staff comforted her son and gave him antianxiety medication before he was lifted into the roaring helicopter. 

“They even brought me food right before I had to get on the helicopter, to make sure we had something to eat – we were anticipating a three- or four-hour flight,” Bridges said. 

The team whisked the pair to the North Carolina hospital in just an hour and a half, she said.

Bridges couldn’t hear anything over the roar of the helicopter at the time – but she was touched by other passengers’ reactions in videos of the rescue she later saw online. 

“At the end of one of them, the helicopter was starting to fly away from the ship, and people were clapping and cheering. It was so heartwarming to see,” the mother wrote on a GoFundMe for the boy’s medical expenses. “It made me cry.”

After the woman and her son were medevaced, the mother said the cruise line upgraded her family’s internet service free of charge so that they could keep in touch – Bridge’s husband and her step-daughter had to remain behind on the ship. 

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“We had excursions that we had paid for already, and you have to give 28 to 48 hours notice or something if you want to cancel,” Bridges gushed. “We were able to cancel our excursions, at least for Aiden. And we were able to cancel his ticket, and they didn’t charge us for it.” 

“We even had a whole excursion for all four of us in the Dominican Republic – we canceled all of it, and they didn’t charge us for it,” Bridges said.

Ultimately, the mother said that “Carnival took care of [her family] in every way I would have asked for.” 

The mother-of-two said that she wasn’t sure whether she would take another cruise after the experience.

“I will say that this entire thing gives me a lot to consider,” Bridges said. “On one hand, this was a really awful situation, and we didn’t anticipate it whatsoever. For it to happen on a cruise makes it even worse.”

“But on the other hand, the way that the situation was handled by Carnival and all the staff on the ship, it’s kind of back and forth for me,” Bridges said. “Thinking about it, do I really want to go on a cruise again, or do I not?”