Medical Emergencies on the Train.
I had an inquiry the other day from a woman whose husband wants to take a cross-country trip on Amtrak. He has had some health problems and she’s worried about what might happen if he should fall ill while they’re on the train.
Passengers have had medical issues on several of my trips and I’ve always been impressed by how those incidents were handled by the Amtrak crews. There are some simple things you can do, however, just to be on the safe side.
First, don’t be embarrassed. If you have a health issue that could crop up during your trip, make sure you know where to find your car attendant during the night. This is important: sometimes he’ll be in one of the roomettes; sometimes he’ll be in a dorm car at the front of the train.
If you should fall ill, don’t wait until you’re in a real emergency situation. The sooner the crew is informed, the more time they will have to consider the options and make the necessary arrangements.
Give the attendant your very best assessment of your situation. If it’s a problem you’ve experienced before, tell him that and tell him what you think you’re going to need.
If it’s something potentially serious, he’ll inform the conductor who will use the train’s public address system to see if there’s a physician on board to take a look at you.
Or, probably more likely, the conductor could have the engineer radio ahead to arrange for paramedics to meet the train at the next stop. They’ll come on board, evaluate your situation, and recommend appropriate action. That could mean simply providing some medication or suggesting you leave the train and have them take you to a local hospital for further evaluation and treatment.
The main thing to remember: having a passenger fall ill is not an unusual occurrence for an Amtrak crew. You’ll find them concerned sympathetic and capable.
I’ve been on a couple of trains with emergencies: One was on the Auto Train (a conductor had a heart problem) resulting in an unplanned stop in a small town to meet the EMTs; the other was just last week on the Silver Meteor while it was already stopped because a maintenance backhoe got stuck on the track between Jacksonville and Palatka. In the second one, the train had to back up to a crossing since it couldn’t go forward when a passenger complained of stomach pain. Neither was rushed; the patient’s safety came first.
I’ve been on the train when a medical emergency occurred, and an ambulance met the train at a rail crossing before the next scheduled stop.
It turned out to be a false alarm but I was impressed that the crew responded so quickly.
I’ve seen that, too, and should have mentioned it. Thanks for pointing it out.