Language Barriers and Fears


The patient had symptoms of cardiac problems on a holiday cruise, the decision was made to disembark & admit him to a private specialist unit.

Service: Medical evacuation

Location: Marseilles, France


A 56 year old British gentleman was on a Mediterranean holiday cruise with his wife when he started feeling unwell. Because the ship’s doctor became concerned that the patient’s symptoms were related to a cardiac problem, the patient and his wife were disembarked at the next port, a Corsican town called Ajaccio. He was admitted to the local public hospital and then moved by air ambulance to a private specialist unit in Marseilles on the mainland.

Operating theatre


  • International SOS arranged a commercial flight and accommodation for the patient’s wife to meet and support her husband in Marseilles
  • The patient required heart bypass surgery. International SOS medical team and the treating doctor, to undergo surgery in France. The patient gave his consent to have the operation locally.
  • We kept in daily contact with the patient to monitor his recovery, progress and to offer support. The patient was frustrated by language difficulties but comforted by daily contact with a medical professional in English about his concerns.
  • Besides, the patient suffered from a chronic fear of flying, and was getting increasingly agitated about his forthcoming travel. The possibility to undertake the journey by train or road was reviewed in detail.
  • The arrangements were made at short notice, one day before the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.
  • The patient, his wife and the medical escort finally travelled to the UK on 26 July, by train to Paris, Eurostar to London and ground transport to Gloucestershire to avoid road traffic complications.
  • The patient underwent a post transport review at his nearest hospital in the UK as a precautionary measure, and was declared fit to be released home on the same day.


The patient wrote to us to say: "You guys were nothing short of fantastic and totally professional in everything you did and your assistance made what would have been a complete nightmare into something that was bearable throughout."

This case is an example of the difference human contact can make during the process of daily medical monitoring while the patient is admitted to hospital. Equally important was that neither the patient nor his wife had to unnecessarily chase us for updates on medical expenses or travel arrangements.

Despite the logistical challenges on the journey to the UK, the patient and his wife always felt supported.