One year ago, on May 5, 2019, my heart stopped beating at I arrived by ambulance to Amsterdam´s OLVG Emergency Room. I had been aboard the Holland America Nieuw Statendam as it prepared to continue its cruise, which had thus far carried us from Ft. Lauderdale to Amsterdam, on to the fjords of Norway.
As the ship departed, the OLVG team performed CPR and got me back, then whisked me onto a CT machine to figure out what was going on. All they knew was that I had fainted twice, once earlier in the day on an Amsterdam sidewalk — from which I rebounded without complaint —and again a short time later, on the boat. I had no pain, and there was no external trauma.
Ray, meantime, was sitting in the waiting area, surrounded by our four suitcases, with a severe case of bronchitis that had prevented him from sleeping for the past two nights. He was stunned, stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed.
At doctor came out of the ER to tell him that I had a ruptured aneurism in an artery in my belly, and that they were going to perform surgery to seal the leak. It was information from a nightmare world.
Ray called our daughter in Florida. Victoria called my sister, Susie. By the end of the day, they were both en route to Amsterdam. Susie worried that they would be too late.
Meanwhile, the remarkable staff at OLVG had set up a cot, blanket and pillow, toothbrush, soap and a towel for Ray in a small room adjacent to the ICU. A kind Turkish family, also awaiting news on a sick family member, invited Ray to enjoy food with them. He was too sick and exhausted to get any sleep that night, but he was sustained by kindness.
The surgery was successful. By the time Victoria and Susie arrived at the hospital the next morning, I had been released from the ICU and seemed very much on my way to a simple recovery.
And then, all hell broke loose.