EXCLUSIVE: Man who broke hip on cruiseship and left in Turkey, finally home from rehab
8:36 PM, Oct 28, 2013
1:50 AM, Oct 29, 2013
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Dodge Melkonian is still in a lot of pain suffering from a fractured hip. He still can't walk on his own and needs therapy.
But he's speaking out, hoping that by doing so, he will help bring about some policy changes on cruise ships.
The memory of what happened aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise still haunts Dodge Melkonian.
"I was in a dark hallway and the ship tilted and I fell," said Dodge.
It's the most vivid memory of his ordeal that began back in August.
"I knew right away it had broken because I heard it break," said Dodge.
It was his left hip that broke while he and his wife Jill sailed the waters near Bartin, Turkey on a Royal Caribbean ship.
"Jill came running out because I was lying there screaming," said Dodge.
Then he said he passed out from the pain.
"When I woke up, I was in this hospital and it was filthy dirty," said Dodge.
"They dumped me off in this hospital, in this strange town and I can't even speak the language. They had no interpreter or anything."
That was nearly three months ago. Finally, back in his Clearwater home, the extraordinary steps to get here bring back frustration.
"It was a mess, it was a terrible mess," said Dodge.
In a panic at the time, the couple reached out to their travel agent, Tammy Levent, owner of Elite Travel.
Levent turned to ACTION NEWS to try to get them to a modern hospital in Istanbul, some seven hours from Bartin.
"I called you (ACTION NEWS) and you saw how upset I was and I said I needed help," said Levent.
ACTION NEWS turned to US Senator Bill Nelson who with the US Embassy made sure Dodge got the care he needed.
But the couple questions, the cruise's responsibility when it comes to what happened and the cost of care and travel, considering they bought insurance.
"They guaranteed the hospital bill in Turkey and after that, we don't know anything," said Jill Melkonian.
"Since then, they have not communicated with us."
That's why the Melkonians are speaking out. They want policies changed and with Levent's help, they have gone to lawmakers.
"A person, for instance from a cruise ship, should be accompanied by a cruise ship staff member and then if it is in a foreign country, someone that speaks the language," said Jill.
"I am a very private person, I want no publicity none, but she insisted we should do it because it will help other people," said Dodge.
This recent cruise was in compensation for another Royal Caribbean cruise the couple had been on in April that caught fire.
The Melokonians said Royal Caribbean did offer another free cruise.
ACTION NEWS tried contacting Royal Caribbean again Monday. They referred us to this statement they sent in August.
"We have been working closely with Mr. & Mrs. Melkonian since Mr. Melkonian fell while onboard our ship. Unfortunately, because of the extent of his injury, Mr. Melkonian could not remain on the ship. We helped arrange transportation via ambulance to the closest area hospital. Once ashore, we worked closely with the travel insurance provider, as they have the expertise to deal with local authorities and medical facilities. Even though Mr. & Mrs. Melkonian had to leave the ship, we still provided assistance to them while in Turkey. One of our Care Team Specialists is with them today. Our focus continues to be on Mr. & Mrs. Melkonian's well-being and we continue to work closely with them to provide the assistance they need. The health and safety of all our guests is always our top priority. We will continue to do what we can to assist Mr. & Mrs. Melkonian, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Director, Global Corporate Communications