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Coast Guard Delivers Blood to Sick Cruise Passenger

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- A seriously ill passenger on a cruise ship headed to Hawaii from San Diego is now safely in a local hospital and doing fine, thanks to the work of the Coast Guard.

The Carnival Spirit was more than 900 miles offshore of Hawaii when the 67-year-old woman fell ill Monday.

“We knew that it was a time-critical issue so we were able to go on the scene basically at first light,” Lt. Robert Braham, a Coast Guard pilot, said Wednesday.

The cruise ship was too far away for a helicopter to evacuate the woman so the Coast Guard launched a C-130 airplane from Honolulu for the three-hour flight to deliver six units of blood and medical supplies.

The supplies were picked up from Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday -- and the C-130 took off four hours later, bound for the ship.

“We grabbed ice from our cooler to keep the blood cold and we just kind of rolled with the punches,” Petty Officer Stewart Peterson said.

With 12 million Americans cruising every year, medical emergencies do happen.

The vessels have doctors, nurses and 24-hour medical care. They also have an exam room and medical equipment including X-rays, defibrillators and portable oxygen, but they are not floating hospitals.

In the last few weeks, the Coast Guard has airlifted a 73-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman from cruise ships for medical reasons.

Even the U.S. Navy has been called. In one case, a passenger with acute appendicitis had to be rushed to land by two Blackhawk Navy helicopters.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio