In February, Phoebe Moon’s parents snapped a photo of the nine-month-old baby carrying a teddy bear on a plane to Miami.
“It was Phoebe’s first holiday,” said Phoebe’s mother, Aimee Moon, during a Zoom interview from the United Kingdom.
Once they arrived, they boarded the Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas—a ship that promotes activities for the little ones online.
“We had never taken her away before and we thought we would have the time of our lives in America, but sadly, it didn’t turn out that way,” Aimee said.
The family says Phoebe got really sick on board.
“We actually visited the infirmary five times that day and she just got worse and worse throughout the day,” Aimee said. “Every time we went down (the infirmary), we were sent back to our cabin.”
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When they refused to leave, the parents say Phoebe was given antibiotics. They eventually got off the ship mid-cruise in St. Martin for help.
“When we got to St. Martin’s hospital, they said they’ve got about 15 minutes to save her life. They said prepare for the worst because she’s very sick,” said her father, Luke Moon, while fighting back tears.
“We were told multiple times she wouldn’t make it and when they airlifted us from St. Martin back to Florida, they told us they didn’t think she would make the flight back,” her mother added.
Photos provided by the family and taken after they returned to land show Phoebe’s feet, legs, and hands swollen and purple. Her parents say a severe form of meningitis did that to her.
“We were just in utter shock to think you left to go on holidays with your daughter and the prospect that you’re not going to be going home with her is unimaginable,” Aimee said.
The family says doctors in Fort Lauderdale had to amputate to save her life.
“At the hospital, we knew that she would lose her feet and fingers of the left hand,” Aimee said.
In a lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean in Miami, the family alleges the cruise line’s doctors misdiagnosed Phoebe with "a stomach bug," even though she had “classic signs of a life-threatening meningococcal meningitis infection,” including being lethargic and a high fever of almost 104.
Attorney Thomas Scolaro is representing the family.
“Listening to their story just breaks my heart every time,” Scolaro told NBC 6. “This would otherwise be the world’s most horrific case of medical negligence and damage to the world’s sweetest little child but it gets substantially worse.”
Scolaro says Royal Caribbean is trying to limit the potential payout for his client by trying to dismiss their case in Miami and asking for the lawsuit to be heard in the United Kingdom where the family lives.
“As residents of the U.K.,the Plaintiffs agreed to and accepted RCL’s U.K. Booking Terms and Conditions,” adding it includes a clause “directing any litigation arising out of their contract or holiday to the Courts of England and Wales.”
“If they (Royal Caribbean) can look to save a buck, they will,” Scolaro said. “This is the ultimate throwing salt on a wound.”
In Florida courts, there aren’t generally monetary limits on what the family could get for Phoebe’s treatment and what they went through. But in the United Kingdom, the limit would be about $900,000 for this family.
What happened to Phoebe is a daily heartbreak for these parents, as she attempts to take her first steps.
“Even now all she wants to do is get down and walk you and it's so difficult that she is unable to do that, and these challenges are just going to get harder as she gets older,” Aimee said.
The family has a message for other families planning to sail in the future.
“We were always under the impression that the medical facilities and staff on a ship were world class and world leading. We now think that isn’t the case,” Luke said. “You are on your own at sea.”
Royal Caribbean declined to be interviewed for this story. In a statement, a spokesperson told us, “Our thoughts are with the family during this challenging time. We do not comment on pending litigation."