Update: Man stranded in Turkey after breaking hip on cruise gets financial help

Medical bills guaranteed, transport costs covered

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A Pinellas County couple stranded in Turkey by a cruise line just learned on Friday they will be receiving some much needed financial assistance.

Earlier this week, ABC Action News was the first to tell you about Bay area couple, Dodge and Jill Melkonian. Dodge Melkonian, 89, fell and broke his hip while on a Royal Caribbean cruise with his wife.

"I heard him scream.  My husband takes a lot of pain, he doesn't even use a needle for dental work, so I knew he was in trouble," Jill Melkonian said in an interview with CBS News.

Melkonian was treated on board the ship, but needed further medical attention. Jill said the ship's crew left them at a hospital in Bartin, Turkey, where no one speaks English. Because of strict cultural rules, women are not allowed inside the facility.

"The hospital was so dirty and I was worried about infection," she said, adding that she bought insurance through the cruise line in an effort to get her husband transferred.

She said the cruise line told her to file a claim first.  Desperate, she reached out to the owner of her travel agency, Tammy Levent of Elite Travel.

"You don't just leave someone. We take care of our pets here better than they took care of the Melkonians," Levent said.

ABC Action News took the Melkonians' plight to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

"Royal Caribbean has a responsibility to take care of their passengers, even when they have to put them in a foreign hospital," Nelson said. His office reached out to the family. A spokesperson from Nelson's office told Action News they contacted the embassy to make sure the family is cared for.

But at $10,000 a day, their hospital bills quickly started to stack up.
For the last several days, Levent has been pressing Royal Caribbean to come to their aid. On Friday, a representative from the cruise line finally arrived to Dodge's bedside.
The couple was informed that their insurance company, Berkley, will cover the first $10,000 in hospital bills. In an email, the VP and Global Chief Medical Officer for Royal Caribbean guaranteed the Melkonians letters of guarantee on any additional amounts over $10,000. The email also stated that their $25,000 medical transport trip back to Florida will also be paid for.
"It's just a lesson to be learned that we are a voice and something needs to be done," Levent said.
Levent is currently working on getting legislation drafted in Dodge's name that would do more to protect a passenger's rights.
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