Will I lose my dream job for the lack of a spleen?
October 11, 2009 2:03 PM   Subscribe

My job of a lifetime travelling the world on a cruise ship rests on obtaining an ENG1 certificate (I'm in the UK). Healthy female in my 20's with no health issues except a full splenectomy three years ago. Employer showed no concern, but could a bureaucratic doctor scupper my dreams? Full story below...

YANMD, but I'm hoping there's someone out there who has experience of the situation I'm in or at least the processes/ procedures currently keeping me awake.

I have worked in the shore-side office of a well-known cruise company for a number of years, building great relationships and earning a good reputation. Recently I have been severely under-challenged and restless, and a spot on board one of our ships working a dream job came up. I applied and was offered the job yesterday which I accepted without a moment's hesitation (all the oohing and aahing about life at sea was done pre-application).

At the time of applying for the job I had to complete a personal information form, one of the questions was "Have you undergone surgery in the last 3 years?" to which I answered Yes. No further explanation was asked for either on the form or in the interview.

The reason for the yes: three years ago I had a severe case of glandular fever that resulted in my spleen rupturing (thankfully while already in hospital) and having to be removed via emergency surgery. After a two month recovery from illness and operation, I went back to work and back to my life. I don't take any daily drugs etc I just have some strong antibiotics to take if I feel at risk of infection. If it wasn't for the navel to ribcage scar I'd forget it ever happened...

SO.. back to tonight and thinking about setting sail. My job requires an ENG1 medical certificate for seafarers. I was told at my interview this was to check for any conditions that may effect my capacity to safely carry out my duties in an emergency situation - epilepsy, heart conditions etc. At this point I did mention my previous run-in with a scalpel but the attitude was 'should be fine'. So I merrily book my appointment post-haste as I need to have everything sorted to start on the 23rd. I figured I'd have a look on-line to see what I was in for (as you do at 2am on a Saturday when no helplines are open to ease your soon-to-be-panicked mind) and I see that a Splenectomy is recommended for a Restricted certificate - visiting tropical areas may increase risk of severe infection.

I'm supposed to start on the 23rd, destination: Caribbean, (erm, not too tropical then) In January (and here's the biggest reason for the heartache) destination: World Cruise. All the good tropical places - Caribbean, Central America, Asia, South Pacific, India...

1. The condition is under control; 2. I'm on an extremely well-equipped cruise ship, not a lonely frieghter 3. If the ship starts sinking I am a fully-functioning crew member.

So my question(s) at long last are:
When I phone my GP on Monday can she tell me if I'll get my (restricted or otherwise) certificate? My appointment for the official exam is on Wednesday and I'll be phoning their adviceline too...

Is it even worth considering trying not to disclose my surgical history to the doctor, he's a guy and I'm a girl so I'm not expecting to remove much clothing. I know, bad idea, but this job means EVERYTHING. If I just wanted to travel I'd buy a ticket, I want the job, and the career.

There must be plenty of seafarers out there with no spleen, it's pretty common, we can't all just stay in the Baltic?!

Apologies for the ramble, and the panic. Throwaway email is whoneedsaspleenanyway@googlemail.com for your advice and experience.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
You said Yes but they asked for no details? What about that ingrown toenail, you remember...
posted by A189Nut at 2:59 PM on October 11, 2009

I can't speak to whether you'll get the medical certificate you need, but as tempting as it may be, please DO NOT lie to the doctor. If the omission is ever discovered that would probably be grounds for termination, and would most certainly short-circuit your career path. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 3:13 PM on October 11, 2009

I admit I know nothing about the certificate or anything.
However, having one's spleen removed is a pretty big omission that could not easily be explained away by forgetting. If they found out that you didn't disclose the procedure, it would be obvious that you omitted the information on purpose, leading to the consequences that katemcd described.
posted by ishotjr at 3:38 PM on October 11, 2009

"2. I'm on an extremely well-equipped cruise ship, not a lonely frieghter"

This part doesn't really matter unless an ENG1 is tied to a specific class of ship. You never can tell where the wind of misfortune might blow you.
posted by Mitheral at 3:47 PM on October 11, 2009

Why would a male doctor require you to remove any more or less clothing than a female doctor? I wouldn't count on that. Anyway, dream job aside and all that, for your own health and safety you need to be fully aware of any risks you might be taking exposing your compromised immune system to unfamiliar environments. Tell the doctor and inform yourself of the risks, even if you get the certificate you need to know this.
posted by nax at 6:13 AM on October 12, 2009

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