My Life as a Traveler

Day At Sea or This is Bad, Part 1

I woke up to the gentle rocking of the ship in our dark cabin. One great thing about a cabin without a window is that there’s no pesky light shining at you in the morning to wake you up. The bad thing about it is that there’s no light at all to tell you if the sun’s up or if it’s still the middle of the night. Cruise ship cabins don’t come with a bedside alarm clock like hotel rooms do, so you really don’t know what time it is until you look at your watch or phone. I’ve got my phone and it’s telling me it’s 7:30am.

It’s a huge effort to walk to the bathroom. My face is ghostly white. I’m not hungry and just want to lie in bed.  One of the tv channels is the BridgeCam with the real-time view from the front of the ship. It is cloudy outside. I like that we don’t have to leave the windowless cabin to see the weather outside. When Susie gets up, I ask her to walk me down to the ship’s infirmary when they open at 10am. In the meantime, we both lay in bed in our dark cabin watching a movie.

With all the cruising I have done, I have only been down to see the doctor once before. In 1983, I was on the Queen Elizabeth II sailing from London to New York. Right after high tea, the ship hit the full force of the Atlantic and the combination of clotted cream and tilt-a-whirl resulted in a severe case of seasickness. So I dragged myself down to the doctor. He had a shot that he promised would make me a little sleepy that night, but I’d be right as rain the day after. It was a five-day cruise. I slept for four days of it. So, you see, it has got to be bad before I go to see the doctor. And this was bad.

But my spirits are good, even though my head is light. It’s all I can do to walk down the hall and take the elevator down to the lowest floor of the ship where the medical staff work.

I sunk to the floor at the door of the infirmary. Sitting there, I chatted with a young woman and her mom who were also waiting. Poor girl was seasick. I told her, whatever she does, do not get the shot. I guess these days they have pills for that now, in fact, the purser’s desk hands them out for free, like candy.

We were let in by the nurse promptly at ten. When the seasick girl’s mom heard that it was $80 just to see the doctor for five minutes, she fled upstairs with her daughter to find the free pills.

My turn, now. I told the nurse I was dizzy, nauseous, and had bloody diarrhea (sorry! that’s the last time I’m going to use those two words together). When she heard those two words (the ones I’m not going to mention again) she switched to crisis mode and herded me out of the waiting room into a little hospital room. I was happy to lie down, even if it was a hospital bed, as they checked vital signs and took blood.

At first, they thought I had a Norovirus (you know, the kind that spreads so fast on a ship and everyone gets sick, effectively shutting the cruise down). Yikes, I can’t tell you how bad I felt that I could be ground zero for something like that. Here’s what they do when someone has Norovirus: first, they send the “Hit Squad” to your cabin. These guys come, not to bump you off, but to completely disinfect your space. They look like a HAZMAT team with their face masks and special suits but are very effective at getting rid of germs. Next, they confine the Norvirus carrier in their room for 24-48 hours, until their contagiousness passes. People can be kicked off the ship if they venture into the buffet during this period.

Then, supposedly, after a couple of days, the virus is contained and the formerly infected person can roam free and enjoy the rest of the cruise. I was thinking, OK, a day or two in the cabin wouldn’t be so bad. I can handle this. In a day or two I’ll be seeing glaciers.

However, after the blood test came back, it wasn’t Norovirus. This is when they started really freaking out. Taking some more blood, they ran their test again, thinking there was an error. Nope. Turns out my Hemoglobin (that’s red blood cell count for all you non-medical types) was 5. It’s supposed to be 13. At 5 people have hallucinations, fainting, kidney failure, and can go into shock. None of those things are happening to me now, but the problem is, they don’t have the facilities in their little infirmary to handle this type of emergency. We are not due into port until tomorrow. And, although there has been no bleeding since last night, we don’t know if there will be more.

Now I’m getting scared.

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