Houston traveler stuck in Jamaica after coming down with pneumonia during Carnival Vista cruise

Erica Simon Image
Saturday, September 10, 2022
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A family is facing a complex situations after a loved one came down with pneumonia while on vacation. They spoke only to ABC13.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- What started out as a girl's trip full of laughter, good drinks, and an unforgettable experience on the high seas quickly went downhill.

Houstonian Maria Ybarra started feeling sick on Sept. 5 and was referred to more extensive medical care onshore in Montego Bay, Jamaica, after being seen by staff on the Carnival Vista.

ABC13 was given photos of Maria on one of, if not the only, oxygen machine at the hospital.

Her husband, Arturo Ybarra, told ABC13 she had to stay outside for hours while she was tested for COVID-19. It turned out she had pneumonia, which was exacerbated by her asthma.

Arturo's sister got off the ship with Maria when she got sick, and their son flew in on Thursday to offer support. Arturo said all he can do is wait and hope he can bring his bride home.

"I'm real scared, and I want her to come back to the states, but the only way she can come back to the States is the air ambulance, but they charge $40,000. Money, we don't have," Arturo explained.

Maria did not have travel insurance, which may have been able to help when she got sick.

"With the travel insurance, you do have additional emergency medical benefits, which are provided within that policy, to help cover any gaps your health insurance may not cover, or you may not want to cover out of pocket," Krysta Theus explained.

Theus is a travel agent who's heartbroken to hear about Ybarra. She encourages everyone, especially when they travel to another country, to pay the extra money for travel insurance. A cost that may be more affordable than you think.

"For most cruise lines, I've seen the rates be around $50 to $70 or so," Theus said.

Arturo has been in contact with the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica and has been getting daily updates from the cruise and hospital officials.

Carnival sent the following statement:

"Our medical centers are staffed by qualified physicians and nurses who are committed to providing the highest quality of shipboard medical care. Shipboard medical facilities are set up to provide reasonable emergency medical care for guests and crew. In the cases when a guest's medical condition requires more comprehensive facilities, patients are referred to shoreside facilities, as was the case with Ms. Ybarra. Her sister accompanied her to the hospital, and our port agent was quickly activated to provide local support with hotel assistance and transportation.

As is customary, our Care Team also supports guests and their families in these situations. In this instance, both a Care Team representative and our port agent in Jamaica have been keeping in close contact with Ms. Ybarra's family. Today, the port agent assisted Ms. Ybarra's son by picking him up at the airport and bringing him to the hospital. We continue to stay in close contact with Ms. Ybarra's family.

Overall, we always recommend travel insurance for our guests as it does help with unforeseen emergencies."

Arturo said Maria was advised not to leave until her oxygen levels get back up, which could take anywhere from 12-20 days.

In the meantime, Arturo set up a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses.

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