The Cohn family expected nothing but paradise when they left for their Caribbean cruise vacation on the Carnival ship "Dream," but it quickly became a nightmare.
On March 28, three days into their seven day cruise, their 14-year-old son Stephen became very ill. He had severe stomach pain and internal bleeding.
"I don't remember much of what happened," recalled Stephen, who's now back home in Buffalo Grove. "I guess I lost a lot of blood."
His father, Mitchell Cohn, said it was hard not to panic.
"We needed to get to a medical facility immediately, or else things we're headed downhill in a hurry," he explained from his home Wednesday.
The captain and crew quickly responded, and instead of continuing towards St. Thomas, the cruise headed for Puerto Rico. As they approached the island, a coast guard helicopter was dispatched to meet the ship.
"Dream" does not have a landing pad, so Stephen and his mother -- who admits she was terrified -- had to be lifted from the ship onto the helicopter.
"I had to do what I had to do to get to the doctor and get help," said Michelle Cohn.
Within minutes from boarding the helicopter, Stephen was in an ICU at a hospital in Puerto Rico, where he was able to get the medical help that he needed.
The family believes without the cruise line's quick-thinking and emergency plan, the situation could have ended very differently.
"They saved his life. They absolutely saved his life," whispered a grateful Mitchell Cohn as his son sat next to him in the family room.
Stephen has decided he wants to work on creating a charity to send books and toys to the hospital that treated him in Puerto Rico, so that the other kids in the ICU could have more fun while they are there.
Stephen also says this whole experience taught him things about life he knew existed, but never quite so directly experienced. "It made me feel really good that there are people out there that want to help others."