Holiday hell for tourist


An American cruise ship passenger
admitted to Cayman Islands Hospital with a suspected kidney stone said she had
her appendix removed instead and developed pneumonia and sepsis after the hospital
failed to find the stone.

Early on 28 January, four days into
their week-long Caribbean cruise on board the Carnival Glory, Dana Engel, 36,
developed severe abdominal pain for the second time in two days.

“I had such a fever, abdominal pain
and even had my jaw lock because of the fever,” Mrs. Engel said.

She was admitted to the hospital in
Cayman next day and released three days later, on Sunday, 31 January in a
medically induced coma, after which she was flown to Cleveland Clinic Hospital
in Weston, Florida.

“They put me in the medically
induced coma on 31 January and I woke 9 February,” she said.

Her husband Randy arranged for an
air ambulance to take her to Florida where hospital staff quickly found the
kidney stone. She remained there for 13 days and was treated for sepsis and
pneumonia before returning home to Wisconsin where the kidney stone was finally

Her medical bill at the Cayman
Islands Hospital came to more than US$12,000.

“We had to pay the entire bill up
front before we were discharged…totalling over $12,000.  My husband secured an air ambulance [jet] and
worked with our bank and a counsellor down there to arrange payment.

“That bill of over $10,000 is still
being fought over by insurance,” Mrs. Engel said.

Her total medical bill, which
included the cost of treatment in Cayman and the US, has come to $200,000, a
sum she says would have been “much lower” if the hospital in Cayman had found
the kidney stone. Despite blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds and exploratory
surgery, the stone was not discovered and sepsis set in.

“Because the kidney stone was not
detected, Cayman did exploratory surgery – which found nothing.  My husband was told everything was normal,
yet my blood pressure was dropping and my cell counts were skyrocketing, I
contracted pneumonia and was going into septic shock.

“I believe that is when Cayman
inserted the tube [Sunday, 31 January] in my back to drain my kidney. How they
finally realised it was my kidney backing up into my system, I don’t know. By
then it was too late, the sepsis was too far. We later found out when I had
internal bleeding in Florida, that Cayman had removed my appendix and never
informed my husband,” she said. 

The couple had not taken out travel
insurance, which she admits was a mistake.

Asked if they planned to take any
action against the Cayman Islands Hospital to try to recoup her medical
expenses, Mrs. Engel said they were not sure at this stage. “A simple answer as
to why they missed the stone would help us,” she said.

Mrs. Engel has undergone day
surgeries to remove a blood clot filter and the kidney stone. “I needed to take
shots for the blood clots in the filter and still have one stone that I’m
doctoring for,” she said.

A newspaper in Wisconsin ran
details of Mrs. Engel’s nightmare holiday last week.

Dr. Greg Hoeksema, the Health
Services Authority’s medical director, said the hospital was looking into what
happened with Mrs. Engel.

“We will thoroughly review the care
of this patient, from both a medical and financial perspective. As you
appreciate, though, we are never at liberty to discuss the medical care of an
individual patient in the media,” he said.

Mrs. Engel said the Authority had
contacted her after the story appeared in her local newspaper, but she had not
gotten back in touch because of high telephone costs.

January’s trip was a return to the
island for the Engels – they had visited here eight years earlier.

“They [had] an ambulance waiting
for me when they tendered me off the boat. I’ll never forget the gentleman that
was in the back of the ambulance with me – however I can’t recall his name –
but he was so funny. I was telling him how I was so excited to come back to the
Grand Cayman because it was our favourite island – so beautiful, clean, safe and
everyone was so friendly – but I never dreamed I’d be getting a tour in the
back of an ambulance.”


Dana and Randy Engel in Roatan, Honduras, the last stop on their cruise holiday before she was admitted to hospital in Cayman with a suspected kidney stone.
Photo: Submitted


  1. I felt so sorry for this couple, and was very intrigued by the story, until I read this line…..

    "The couple had not taken out travel insurance, which she admits was a mistake."

    That’s where I stopped reading.

  2. Not good publicity for an island which is planning to establish itself as a medical-tourism hub in the region! and also especially when the US is the targeted market.
    Failure to buy travel insurance was the couple’s fault; however, it in no way absolves the Hospital of their professional duty of care and proper medical treatment to the patient which they failed to carry out. It remains to be seen if a lawsuit is filed by the hospital.

  3. The message in this story is don’t get sick in Grand Cayman!! I don’t think that lack of having insurance is an appropriate test of whether an appendix should be removed or not especially without the patient’s consent. This woman is very lucky to be alive.

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