My Life as a Traveler

Day at Sea, Part 2, or A New Hope

Stephanie, my new best friend with her needle.

So what do you do when somebody comes in to tell you that your body is ready to shut down because you don’t have enough blood?

Well, a few things went through my mind. First, I really didn’t feel that bad, just very lightheaded and tired. It didn’t make sense that they were all freaking out. However, they all seemed so sure that something bad was going to happen, so next, I asked their advice. They were the pros, after all.

Dr. Dylan was on call that morning. He was one of the two doctors on the ship, aided by a staff of nurses. His recommendation was to increase fluids, particularly blood, since I was low. Then, after considering the possibilities of all the bad things that can happen with a blood transfusion (and signing a form saying I have done so), I let them hook up an IV for hydration, insert a catheter (mightily uncomfortable) so they can monitor if my kidneys were about to fail, and let them go find some good blood for me on the cruise ship.

The head nurse, Stephanie, was from New Zealand. She became my new best friend for the next 24 hours. Of course, Susie was still there, but she looked kind of spooked as she helped me get comfortable among the medical paraphernalia. They had to stab me at least once every hour to check the hematocrit (some nurses were more adept at this than others) and make sure there the kidneys continued to work and there was no more bleeding. Once all of that was stabilized, there was really nothing for Susie to do, so I bade her go upstairs and do some fun stuff for the both of us.

Anybody who knows me knows how much I hate the hospital. When I was in high school, I went to the hospital to visit my friend Debra who was in a body cast for a bit. When she showed us her black-and-blue arm “This is how they feed me!”, it was just too much. The sickening foreign smells, the creepy sterility of the room, and the machines beeping and blinking randomly all came together in a bizarre nightmare. The next thing I knew, there were nurses helping me up from the floor. Trying to find a reason for this fainting spell, they asked if I was anemic (no). I think it’s just that I’m allergic to hospitals. So much so that I opted to have my son at home and not risk the nightmare again, and I never give blood.

Yet, as I looked around my little cabin (this is not a hospital – it’s a cruise ship!), I wasn’t terribly grossed out. In fact, yesterday when we boarded the ship, I had secretly wished for a surprise upgrade to an outside cabin; I just didn’t think it would look like this. Be careful what you wish for, right? Once I had mastered deep-breathing for needle insertion, it wasn’t that bad. Hey, I could watch movies on the little tv and when that got boring, I could lean over just so to see what was going on in the rest of the little hospital. If it wasn’t for the needles and tubes attached to everywhere, it might not have been too bad. Also, I got to order from the dining room menu (who else gets shrimp cocktail and French onion soup in the hospital?) and I could look out the window at the foggy sea.

For the infirmary staff, though, the work was just beginning. First, they had to find some blood. They were pretty adamant that I needed some NOW. Although they didn’t have any stored in the fridge or freezer, there were gallons and gallons of blood walking around above us. At noon, the Captain made an announcement over the loudspeakers, calling for donors. Straightaway, Susie came back down, knowing that the “seriously ill” person the Captain was talking about was me. After finding out I hadn’t taken a turn for the worse (phew!), I sent her back up to do something more fun that sit around with me and watch them try to find a new place to put a needle.

Would you believe that 50 people showed up to give blood? I think there were something like 20 with my type, O positive. Then the staff narrowed those down to five or six, and they were the ones who helped make me better. The identities of these five were kept confidential (although two were mother and daughter, and I did meet one more the next day) so, even though I couldn’t send them (or anybody who showed up) a formal thank you then, I’d like to post one now.

Dear Princess passengers, whoever and wherever you are, thank you from the depths of my heart. Your selfless generosity makes me feel happy and hopeful about this world we live in. I sleep better knowing that you and people like you are out there, able to step up and help. I’m honored to think that I’m carrying a part of you with me now, always. Best wishes and many thanks, Julie.

I hope this works.

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