Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Trip Summary

Since my previous blog summary as well as a couple of Facebook Posting plus some individual emails, many thoughtful friends have sent me their well wishes and words of support. I have decided to write up the entire story in one place. Here it is. I will try to be brief, but you know me. . .

You might be thinking, "I can't believe he expects us to read all this."  You would be right. I won't be offended if you don't read it. But here it is, just in case.

Our saga started with our planned cruise of the Baltic Sea with Overseas Adventure Travel.

At first, things started out well. We flew from Boston to Stockholm where we spent a couple of days before boarding our ship, the M/V Cleo. We sailed overnight to Helsinki where we spent a couple of hours on a bus tour and then went to St. Petersburg where we spend two days visiting glorious palaces. A lovely city. From there we sailed to spend a day each in Tallinn Estonia and Riga Latvia. Both of these are distinguished by extraordinary architecture.

My birthday happened while we were on the Cleo. I wanted to avoid that whole singing waiters thing, so I had not told anyone that it was my big day. Unfortunately, I was betrayed by my wife. How could I have thought that she would keep the secret? I was presented with a cake that included high intensity pyrotechnics along with a card signed by all members of our tour group. Meanwhile our cabin had been decorated with towels folded like cute little animals. So, all in all, it was very nice.

From there, I am told that the boat sailed to a small town named Visby on the Island of Gotland which is part of Sweden. I came down with some sort of illness. I can't say for sure because I was pretty much "out of it". Apparently, I agreed to skip the tour of the island. There were a couple of times when I slipped off the bed onto the floor. I was too weak to get up off the floor by myself.

Mostly, I was very weak and tired with some pains in my abdomen. The ships doctor was called. I asked her if perhaps I had appendicitis and she said that was impossible since my pain was on the right side and the appendix is on the left. Now, this was news to me, but who am I to argue with a doctor.

I have been told that further discussions took place out of my hearing range and next thing I knew a couple of EMTs showed up, loaded me into an ambulance and took me to the local hospital. They ran blood tests and gave me a CT scan and told me that I definitely had Appendicitis. The doctors jaws dropped (literally) when I told them that the ship's doctor thought the appendix was on the left. It really was fun to watch their faces, No matter. By now the ship was on its way to Poland leaving both me and my appendix (still attached) in Visby, not to mention Barbara.

After some small discussion, and in view of the fact that my appendicitis did not seem critical, they decided to try treating me with antibiotics.

Meanwhile, what about Barbara? Turns out that there were zero hotel rooms in Visby. Rather than put Barbara out onto the street, they brought a second bed into my room "just for one night". She ended up staying for the entire visit.

The doctor there was particularly fond of a test called "C Reactive Protein" (CRP) and after the first day, this had dropped nicely. They said surgery would not be needed. But after the second day, it failed to drop any more and they were again thinking of separating my from my poor, not totally innocent, appendix. They did another CT scan and found that yes there was still some appendicitis, but that my intestine looked healthy. They still recommended extracting the appendix. BUT, before they got out the carving set, they were going to check with an older more experienced doctor.

And what did I think of this? Truth be told: by this time, I really didn't care much one way or the other. There was almost no pain in my abdomen, I felt tired, but mostly pretty good. I had serious doubts that it was necessary to separate me from my appendix. But, on the other hand, I figured that if this was going to get me out of there any faster, then by all means cut it. I could not think of anything in particular that I needed the appendix for, so what the heck.

But a new doctor came in the next day, he said he did not think the appendix should come out. He thought that the failure of the CRP (crap?) to come down was likely due to other factors and that the antibiotics were working they way they should.

They kept me for another couple of days on IV and oral antibiotics. Yesterday, they switched me over to oral only and this morning, (Sunday), they loaded me up with enough giant pills to complete the cycle and set me on my way.

We had been in Visby for around 5 days - huddled in a shared hospital room. On the last day, we decided to go out for a walk. It turned out that the hospital was about a half kilometer from the "Old Town" which was surrounded by walls 30 feet high. We wandered around the village for a half hour or so and enjoyed it greatly. It was frustrating that I did not have more energy; I was pretty beat by the time we hobbled back to the hospital, but at least we had gotten to see the most important part of the island. One point of satisfaction is that when the ship's company visited, it was pouring down rain. We had a very nice day. As nice as it was to be visiting the old ruins, the best part was being outdoors in a beautiful park with the peaceful surroundings.

We left early for the airport and got there before it opened. Literally. The taxi dropped us off in front of the departures door. It was locked and there was no sign of any activity. After about 15 minutes standing out there in the wind, someone came by and let us in. We got on our flight to Stockholm and from there we got a flight to Copenhagen. We got to our hotel at around 5:00 PM. We were at the Admiral Hotel which is very nicely situated in Copenhagen.

Because it was unlikely to get dark before we went to sleep, we decided to try another walk. While I was mostly recovered, I was still taking giant antibiotic pills and these were tiring me. Still, we walked along the shore for a mile or so. We got as far as the mermaid statue and saw many other beautiful points of interest, although I have no idea what they were. Still it was another very pleasant walk. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was totally wiped out. We ate at the hotel.

The next morning, it was pouring down rain and we despaired of any additional sightseeing. However, we ran into the remains of our OAT tour group who were doing the "Extension" in Copenhagen. While chatting with them, we discovered that the rain was really not bad. We went on another walk, this time in the opposite direction and ran across the famous old canal area called Nyhavn. Again, this was a beautiful walk and a very pleasant way to spend the hour we had remaining before leaving for our flight.

As I finalize this, we are on the airplane to Keflavik and we expect to be back in Boston by the end of the day.

I will wrap up with some "take-away" thoughts.

* Overall, the trip was fun. We got to visit many interesting cities and even the hospital was an adventure. It is interesting that I am not angry or particularly upset by the way things turned out. Perhaps I am becoming more mellow with age. I do feel very bad for Barbara.

* The Swedish hospital was excellent. It was very modern, absolutely spotlessly clean and nicer than any hospital I have seen in the states. It was very large and laid out in curves with a good deal of art decorating it. Very pleasant.

* The doctors were excellent. I am slightly bothered by the fact that the younger surgeon was all set to separate me from my appendix based on one test result. But he wisely decided to consult with someone more experienced and they changed their minds. I think all the doctors we dealt with were outstanding.

* The nurses were also terrific. There seemed to be plenty of them, though at one point at around 4:00 AM, I went out of my room for something and could not find a one. After about 5 minutes, one of them wandered back.

* We could not be more thankful for their allowing Barbara to move in with me for the five days we were there. As I said earlier, there were no hotel rooms available, but still, it was very accommodating of them.

* At the end, they provided me with the meds I would use. They mentioned that normally, they would provide a prescription, but in view of our situation, they felt that it was better to just give us the meds. Again, very accommodating.

* The food in the hospital was also great. At first they brought it to me, but later they showed me where to get it myself. They would bring a portable food cart every day at 12:00 and 5:00 where they served a wonderful hot meal that really was excellent.

* I am not sure what to say about the ship's doctor. How could she not know where a patient's appendix is located? On the other hand, she was very nice. Barbara tells me that the decision to move me to the hospital was made by the Captain. You would hope and expect the captain of a ship to be a good and decisive decision maker. He was.

* This cruise was different from others we have been on. The greater distance between ports meant less time in the port city - often as little as two hours on the ground. There was no time to relax and enjoy the environment.

That's all for now. I want to get this thing posted. I will try to organize some photos for posting later on.

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