Helicopter rushes woman to hospital on couple's anniversary cruise

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by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 24, 2012 at 7:41 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 28 at 9:16 AM

It was supposed to be an anniversary and family cruise on the Diamond Princess, a cruise to remember. Sarah Davis didn't expect it to end at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The first sign of trouble was her right toe going numb, then pain.

"I've never had pain like I had in this leg,” said Sarah.

The ship's doctor made the diagnosis.

"She said you've got a clot in your leg and you've got to get off this ship immediately and I said, 'Whatever, get me out of this pain,'” said Sarah.

What Sarah didn't know was that she could lose her leg. The clot ended up there after breaking free from her aorta.

"What she desperately needed was heparin and the physician on board the cruise liner indicated to me that she had no availability of heparin so it was critical that we get her off the cruise ship and get her to a place where there was  a blood thinner to be able to be infused and then get her to Harborview as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Ben Starnes, Harborview / UW Medicine.

There was only way off the ship - by Coast Guard chopper, dangling-in a basket.

"They stopped the ship so that the basket could be lowered and they put me on there about 3 o’clock in the morning. It was drizzling rain and it was very traumatic,” said Sarah.

"They wouldn't let me go,” said Laurance Davis, Sarah’s husband of 64 years. “That was the only problem. The basket wasn't big enough.”

"The only thing I did spin a little because of the wind that was up there,” said Sarah.

"I was in my room. I couldn't watch it,” said  a tearful Laurance.

After all that drama, the fix would be relatively easy.

"It's going to be a small incision in the leg, and then we'll go down and pull that clot out and close the artery,” Dr. Stames tells Sarah.

In the operating room, Dr. Starnes used a balloon to fish out the clot.

It was a rather anti-climatic end to a cruise that turned out to be more of an adventure than the Davis family could ever have imagined.

“We won't ever forget it,” said Laurance.

"They were just wonderful. Everybody was just great and then I got to ride - I've never seen a Mercedes ambulance - got to ride in one. I've just gone and done it all. I don't know what I expect next year,” said Sarah.

Laurance is still a bit shaken up.

"I get emotional over these things,” he said. “I love this girl. We've been married 64 years.”

Sarah hopes to be released from Harborview in a few days.

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