Family Friday: How Public Parks Improve Wellbeing

Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens

One of our favorite days of our 2018 week in Paris was the Sunday we spent in the Luxembourg Gardens, wandering along the sandy paths with other couples, grandmothers and grandchildren, entire families, “le tout Paris.”

Amsterdam’s Vondelpark

The following week, we discovered much the same bucolic feeling in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, where pedestrians wandered the walkways, and flowers bobbed on the banks of shady streams.

Amsterdam’s Oosterpark

During my unexpected 2019 hospitalization in Amsterdam, my husband would wheel me across the street to Oosterpark. The joy of children playing, the ease of cyclists meandering the broad roads they easily shared with strollers, the green of the glades and sunshine on the meadows, were all part of getting me well.

Tampa’s Public Parks

Kodawari Studios Yoga at Armature Works
Kodawari Studios Yoga at Armature Works

And, a few weeks ago, our daughter took my husband and me to the Armature Works, a reimagined warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River that has become a family recreational destination at the northern end of Tampa’s Riverwalk.

The night we were there, so many cars were turning in to park that I assumed there was some type of special event. Nope. There was food, music, the river, and a beautiful evening, and loads of space within which to simply enjoy taking a leisurely stroll. It occurred to me that we’d have all been watching TV at home or lost in social media, or doing some other sedentary non-activity if public space planners had not built us a destination.

Tampa’s Riverwalk

Thank you, public parks!

Wellness Wednesday: Did I Have a Lethal Disease or Just Rotten Luck?

I am well. For the first time since May 5, 2019, I am not a hospital patient.

A healthy patient

Before our 2019 transatlantic cruise to Europe, I considered myself our doctor’s most boring patient. I was a fitness instructor. Apart from having our daughter nearly 30 years ago, I’d never been hospitalized, and I had none of the diseases that creep in as we age. My husband has not been quite as lucky, but he was cleared to travel.

Off we went on our two-week journey across the pond from Florida to Amsterdam, with one additional roundtrip week from Amsterdam to Norway tacked on. We had booked an apartment in Amsterdam’s canal district for a month to end our trip on solid ground in one of our favorite cities.

Three months in the hospital: May 5 to August 9

Saying that I was a boring patient was simply too tempting for The Fates to let lie, but they did give me a chance to make it.

In the single day we were in Amsterdam, I was felled by a ruptured arterial aneurysm, and my heart stopped as I was wheeled into the OLVG Hospital emergency room. They got me back and quickly sealed the leak, but my body struggled to keep going for nearly six weeks in the ICU, leaving me wasted and weak. It took me another six weeks to recover my ability to move and the strength to survive a flight home. I was transferred to a Florida hospital with the savvy to take over my treatment, the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital, where I was an inpatient for a week before being discharged to return home. Tomorrow is the second anniversary of that wonderful re-entry into our palm-and -lake-laden neighborhood.

But hanging over my head was Amsterdam’s diagnosis: the ruptured aneurysm had been surrounded by other aneurysms, symptoms of an extremely rare vascular disease: segmental arterial mediolysis. According to the Mayo Clinic (Jacksonville FL), SAM carries a mortality rate of 50 percent. If the SAM diagnosis was correct, I’d need to be carefully monitored by all-too-rare specialists for the rest of my life. Although Shands was five hours from home, I needed to remain their patient. Maybe forever.

One-month check up: August, 2019

On our return, Shands identified a pseudo aneurysm near my ER incision and fixed it while I tried not to hyperventilate. God bless the nurse who understood what was going on in my head. She stood right next to me chatting about children and dance lessons, keeping me distracted while the rest of the team worked away.

Four-month check up: November, 2019

This time, there was nothing to see. Apart from the evidence of the clamped tear, my blood vessels looked healthy. No aneurysms. Not even any pseudos.

One-year check up: virtual, 2020

It was out of the question to travel to Shands as the pandemic raged. Instead, I ventured to a local facility for the scan, and Shands had a look. Still healthy. No aneurysms.

Two-year check up: July, 2021

We were fully vaccinated mid-winter, and I scheduled my next checkup at Shands before Florida became ground-zero for the delta variant of the Coronavirus. However, by the time we traveled, cases, transmissions, hospitalizations, and deaths were all soaring. We kept on our masks. We sanitized our hands. We drove.

Shands’ CT scan showed no sign of disease. I do not have the terrible, rare SAM. I had some rotten luck, is all.

Go live your life. Follow up with someone closer to home in a year or two, and we’re here if you need us.

Dr. Thomas Huber, Chief of Vascular Surgery, Shands Hospital, University of Florida Health

Discharged

I will always feel deeply grateful to the staff in Amsterdam and at Shands who carried me through the days, months, and years since May 5, 2019, but it feels darn good to be a civilian again.

This time, however, I am taking nothing for granted. I am working hard every day at being strong, well-nourished, and engaged with life.

To life!

Jane Kelly Amerson Lopez
Jane Kelly Amerson Lopez

Travel Tuesday: When We Experienced Holland’s “Juneteenth”

Recovering in Amsterdam

When I was hospitalized for three months in Holland in 2019, the highlight of each day was spending the afternoon hours with my husband. It was the only thing that kept him going, he told me much later. Although our daughter had flown to be by his side for the six weeks I was in the ICU, R was alone in an Amsterdam apartment for the subsequent six weeks of my slow recovery from a near-fatal ruptured arterial aneurysm. The time he spent with me in what became our community of nurses and other hospital staff was precious to us both.

When I felt well enough to leave my room for an hour or so, my husband wheeled me down to the hospital’s wide ground-floor thoroughfare, past the cafe and the pharmacy to the small serene chapel around which OLVG hospital had been built. The magic of the nuns who were the original nurses had stayed with the place. We sat in silence for a bit, simply breathing and being grateful for my survival.

Afternoons in Oosterpark

As my recovery proceeded, and at the urging of my nurses, R would roll me across the street to the beautiful expansive greenway of Oosterpark. Simply experiencing the world of normal people living their lives was a healing process, and being in the fresh air for people watching, flower gazing, and fresh air breathing was a tonic.


Dutch Emancipation Day, Keti Koti Festival

On Sunday, July 1, the dark skinned tea lady who brought me my breakfast told me about a celebration that was happening in Oosterpark that day. I had gotten to know that she was from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America that had retained its Dutch heritage in independence. It was Emancipation Day, she said.

New signage at the park’s entrance stated that it was the Keti Koti Festival.

Keti Koti, a phrase from Suriname meaning ‘Broken Chains’, is a free celebration of liberty, equality and solidarity.

IAMAmsterdam

The park was a sea of African print. Men in dashikis, women and their daughters wrapped head to hip in scarlet, saffron, and geranium green. Drum bands surging along the broad walkways followed by clapping and whooping revelers. Food vendors hawking sweet-scented meat pies. Observers paying homage to the West African slaves captured by the Dutch to work in their New World properties and to their freedom, their broken chains, as depicted in the park’s emancipation monument.

“Why doesn’t America have an event like this?” I asked my husband. “I mean, I know when the emancipation proclamation was written, sort of, but we don’t have a day that forces us to acknowledge that we had slavery. And that it ended. And until we do, we cannot begin to acknowledge and end the oppression of Black people in our country.”

It took the killing of George Floyd, and the massive public demonstration by Black people across this country indeed in Amsterdam as well as many other places around the world to, remind me last year that there is such a day on the calendar. It is called Juneteenth, a day that commemorates June 19, 1865 the day Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Texas to enforce the emancipation proclamation, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s act had taken affect.

New York State, my old employer, made Juneteenth a state holiday last year.

This new public holiday will serve as a day to recognize the achievements of the black community, while also providing an important opportunity for self reflection on the systemic injustices that our society still faces today.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

It took another year of civil rights demonstrations, the ouster of Trump from the White House, and the election of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for Congress to enact the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act making Juneteenth a national holiday.

A day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take — what I’ve long called “America’s original sin.” At the same time, I also remember the extraordinary capacity to heal, and to hope, and to emerge from the most painful moments and a bitter, bitter version of ourselves, but to make a better version of ourselves.

President Joe Biden

It turns out that just having a holiday is not enough. My hospital roommate, a white woman whose alcoholism had caused her to tumble off her social pedestal, disdained the idea of attending the festival. “This is not for us,”she sniffed.

Keti Koti gives us not just a chance to celebrate the abolishment of slavery, it also celebrates the Surinames community and all the colour and pomp they bring to the Dutch way of life. Without them and their ancestors, the Netherlands wouldn’t be what she is today.In all we do, let us respect them, honour them and do all we can to make sure that history never repeats itself.

Beejonson, Dutch web content blogger


Wellness Wednesday: How I celebrated my second anniversary of being alive

As I sipped my first cup of coffee this morning, I checked for the Amsterdam time. It was about two in the afternoon, two years ago to the hour from when my heart stopped on May 5, 2019.

My second anniversary

We’d just crossed the Atlantic on a Holland America cruise ship and should have been at Keukenhof Gardens but my husband had bronchitis, so we had stayed in Amsterdam to pick up medicine when I fainted on the sidewalk.
The EMTs arrived quickly, but my vital signs were within normal range and I told them I felt perfectly fine. Of course I did not feel perfectly fine. I’d had several days of cramping in my abdomen but I had been ignoring it, focused as I was on the next leg of our journey and a reunion with family at the Oslo Opera. “Take us back to the ship,” I commanded.

The ship doctor would not let us back on board unless we signed waivers relieving Holland America of the responsibility for our actions. I was determined, R was sick, and getting back to our room seemed like the only thing to do. We signed the waivers and got to the room, but when R returned with lunch 15 minutes later I was sprawled on the bed, semi conscious. This time, the decision was made for us — the ship doctor and his staff, along with a new set of EMTs, evacuated us off the ship within minutes. Although I understand I must have been unconscious, I remember someone saying as I was rolled into the ER at OLVG Hospital, “We are starting CPR.”

Imagine my poor husband watching this drama unfold, sitting in the ER lounge with our luggage and still very, very sick himself.

Surviving

The ER team identified a ruptured arterial aneurysm in my abdomen as the reason for my condition, and they quickly performed a clamping procedure that stopped the leak. However, the amount of blood in my abdomen had already begun to wreak havoc with my organs, and I spent the next six weeks in the ICU as my body fought off failure.

Our daughter and my sister flew to be at my husband’s side through these very long and dark weeks, and they were supported by the remarkably compassionate OLVG doctors and nurses and the extended family of another ICU patient. These dear people became our friends forever — I just mailed them some gifts.

Recovering

When I was discharged to the hospital’s gastroenterology unit, I had lost 30% of my bodyweight and the ability to move. The doctors told me that I might not have made it at all had I not been strong, the result of teaching water exercise to fellow retirees in Florida. The lifetime exercise habit gave my body the muscle memory it needed as I slowly recovered my ability to move, then to stand, then to walk.

R and I flew to Florida at the end of July, where the University of Florida Shands Hospital took over my care and confirmed that I was strong enough to continue my recovery as an outpatient. I shuffled down my neighborhood sidewalk using a walker and then a cane, and regained my ability to walk unassisted through physical therapy. We even joined a gym, and then, just weeks before my first anniversary, the pandemic hit.

Living

Quarantine did not stop me. My walks got longer and faster. The hand weights came out from the closet. I worked out on Zoom with my sister’s Colorado fitness instructor. We bought a stationary bike. I swam in our community pool and jogged in the ocean.

I have regained, maybe even surpassed, my May 5, 2019 strength and resilience. My next Shands checkup is in July, and we’re expecting me to be discharged.

Gratitude

I really wasn’t sure how I was going to celebrate this day. But then, I got a surprise call from Marsha, who was the first person to entrust me with being her personal trainer in the water. Marsha had just finished a water exercise class with an instructor who was filled with joy and enthusiasm, the feeling that I hoped to impart with every class when I was teaching. The repetition of exercises we’d worked on together, the freedom of moving in water and connecting with others — well, she simply had to call me.

As we caught up with each others lives, I was filled with gratitude for Marsha and all my former students who helped me to be strong enough to survive in 2019. We have made it through this awful pandemic year and will see each other over breakfast or in a pool when conditions permit. We are in each other’s lives, and that is a wonderful thing.

Indeed, I am reminded, today and every day, that life is a wonderful thing.

Travel Tuesday: Looking At The Dutch Tulips

Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in Dutch virus test, wrote Mike Corder recently for the AP, documenting the opening of the famed Keukenhof Gardens for a lucky 5,000 people. It is one of hundreds of public venues that the Dutch government has allowed to reopen under strict conditions to evaluate whether rapid testing can safely help the country ease coronavirus restrictions amid rising levels of vaccinations and warmer weather.

This is a gift. It feels great today. It is beautiful weather anyway … but to walk through the tulips is fantastic!

Corder quotesWritingBerries blogger Berry de Nijs, who shared the following picture on her WritingBerries Facebook page. Dank, Berry!
Dutch blogger Berry De Nijs posted this photo of the tulips in Keukenhof Gardens after her recent visit.

On May 5, 2019, we were scheduled to spend the day at Keukenhof Gardens when our cruise ship stopped in Amsterdam for the day before sailing on to Norway to complete a three-week cross-Atlantic voyage. We had missed the brief tulip season when we were in Amsterdam 2018, catching glimpses of the flowers only at the floating market during our week-long stay, so we’re really looking forward to seeing the 7 million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and myriad other flowers meticulously hand-planted throughout Keukenhof’s manicured lawns by a small army of gardeners.

Photo by Jane Kelly Amerson López, 2018

But, through one of the zillion of timing miracles that allow me to tell you this today, we were not among the tulips on May 5, 2019, when I fainted on an Amsterdam sidewalk. We were outside a pharmacy getting medication for my husband’s bronchitis. Quick response by EMTs had me in an ER within minutes just as my heart stopped. I had ruptured an undiagnosed aneurysm. OLVG Hospital’s expert intervention sealed the leak, but I would be in the ICU for six weeks as my body struggled to survive, and another six weeks in the gastroenterology unit as I slowly regained movement of my wasted limbs.

I celebrated my one-year anniversary back on my feet. But this year as I commemorate surviving and recovering, I am even more grateful to have been spared breast cancer, to be vaccinated, and to be the least interesting patient in my doctor’s roster.

There’s a whole lot to look forward to, maybe even tiptoeing through Kukenhof one day, while living in each moment.

Travel Tuesday: Experience Skating on Dutch Canals

Trapped between the winter storm and high pressure to its east, South Florida stood out like a chili pepper on nationwide temperature maps Monday-a red hot poker against the cooler hues of blues and purples.

Kimberly Miller, The Palm Beach Post

Skating is back in holland

Anne’s skating video

While we are basking in beach weather, a polar vortex has dripped down on much of the United States and Europe, sending temperatures plunging. However, while others shiver indoors, the Dutch have rejoiced in the return to skating on canals.

My friend Anne, one of the dear nurses who cared for me as I recovered from a near-fatal illness in Amsterdam, wrote me to share the joy of recovering this national winter sport.

For the first time in more than 10 years we really had a winter!!! I was skating today on the canal and thought of you. I wanted you to taste a little bit of our Dutch culture. 

Anne Berkhout, OLVG nurse

Ice is not good everywhere

Anne’s klunen photo

When ice skating is your national sport, it stands to reason that the Dutch would have terms for all the related activities.

This picture of us crawling on our knees is called “klunen” in Dutch. If the ice is too weak, you have to go by foot or knee so that you don’t fall through the ice.

Anne Berkhout, OLVG nurse

But when you DO fall through the ice, you become a Twitter sensation under the hashtag “Ice is not good everywhere.”

Perhaps we’ll skate together

Maybe someday you can see this with your own eyes and skate with us!!

Anne Berkhout, OLVG nurse

My ice skates, which I wore for many winters in upstate New York, are in my Florida bedroom closet, so who knows? It’s Anne’s passion for life that I treasure. So many enthusiastic, tall, smiling people are certainly something I’d love to experience again.

However, I also hope that Anne can someday join us around our lanai fire pit under the palm trees.

Weekend Wildcard: How to Walk With Angels

There are angels who never were people, and then there are angels that are people whom God has chosen to deliver a message or complete a task here on earth.

Rabbi Marc Gelman

In 2019, doctors and nurses in Amsterdam’s OLVH Hospital saved my life, and the hospital chapel inspired my recovery with soul-catching music when all I could do was barely sit upright in a wheelchair.

This Valentine’s Day, I walked four miles listening to that music by Tom Lowenthal and thanking all the angels that brought me back into life.

  • The ER nurse who I heard say she was starting CPR as I was rolled into OLVG. My heart had stopped. I cannot have heard her. I guess angels have special powers to reach the dead.
  • The radiology doc who knew how to reach and seal the abdominal artery rupture.
  • The recovery room nurse who realized that my body was failing.
  • The ICU doctors and nurses that refused to let me give up for six long weeks.
  • The gastroenterology team on 7A who believed I would walk onto a plane six weeks later.
  • The doctors and nurses at the University of Florida Shands Hospital who pronounced me recovered.
  • The physical therapist who knew I would jog again.
  • The nurse practitioner who taught me the pelvic floor exercises and gave me back my confidence

Say yes to life. Say yes to miracles.

Rabbi Marc Gelman

How Our Superhero Daughter Saved Our Lives

Superheroes, the comic book characters, have become big box office draws. From Batman to Spider Man, from Wonder Woman to Elastigirl, these modern versions of mythological figures are endowed with special powers — strength, flexibility, the power of flight, extra-sensory perception — that vanquish the super villains. Superheroes make the world a better place.

My husband and I have a special superhero who’s saved our lives in a dramatic way at three critical junctures, not with super powers but by just showing up. Our hero is our daughter.

Our superhero made us parents in Albany

We have one child. She appeared as a little cross on a white stick one January day in 1992, when I was 37 and we’d given up hope of my getting pregnant.

Her birth made us a family. Her childhood brought us joy.

Her persistence, patience, intelligence, and heart helped her emerge into adulthood as the first doctor in our extended family.

Our superhero held our hands in Amsterdam

Our daughter’s birth was my only hospitalization — until May, 5, 2019, when I was struck down by an undiagnosed arterial aneurysm while on vacation in Amsterdam.

Our daughter flew in the next day, along with my sister. They held up my husband while his world was crashing, and our daughter was at my bedside in the ICU for the six frightening weeks.

When I was strong enough to travel back to Florida, it was our daughter who made it possible to transfer to Shands Hospital, whose excellent care has deemed me well-recovered.

Our superhero signed us up for the vaccine in Palm Beach County

This morning, our daughter did it again, by signing my husband and me up to get the coronavirus vaccine.

It’s a Hunger Games scenario in Florida, with millions of people over 65 trying to get a limited supply of vaccine with minimal public health infrastructure and conflicting messaging. I sent the recommended email to the Palm Beach Health Department more than a month ago, finally receiving an acknowledgement a couple of weeks ago, then silence. Now, Governor DeSantis has pulled the rug out from under the county by assigning all vaccines to a grocery store chain which began assigning appointments a week ago in a 6AM web game with a limited door. All appointment were taken while I waited for two hours to get in. It’s been an exhausting week.

This morning, our daughter also logged as she ate her breakfast. And, just minutes before her long day of work, she got access to the site and signed my husband and me up. We receive the first vaccine tomorrow morning and the second one in a month. She’s done it again.

There are superheroes all around us

There are superheroes all around us, in truth. People going out of their way to help their neighbors. First responders. The kid featured in Inauguration Day’s Celebrating America who made $53,000 from her virtual lemonade stand to feed the hungry. Maybe you.

I thank you all.

How ICU Survivors Are Haunted by their Dreams

The dark nightmares that take over the minds of terribly sick patients can become the happy dreams of recovery.

i had icu psychosis

As I was battling death in the intensive care unit of OLVG hospital in Amsterdam, I believed my dreams or, rather, my nightmares. I believed an evil nurse was torturing me in secret. I believed that the patient lying in the other bed in my room had thrown lye on the face of his daughter, scarring her for life. I saw the staff yell at him for being so evil and yell at his family for being enablers, throwing them out when they gathered to picnic on his bed. I whispered these revelations to my daughter, to my husband, to my sister. They had befriended these people and needed to know the truth of what was going on.

Of course, the truth was not at all what I thought. The ICU nurses were the picture of competence. The Turkish man in the next bed was desperately ill from a botched stomach-stapling procedure. His daughter Yasemin’s dark eyes and full lips sat I disturbed on her beautiful face. Her mother, brother, and the rest of the family had befriended my inconsolable husband when I lay in the ER bleeding to death. The friendship had become closer than family during the intervening awful days.

The delirium brought on by trauma and drugs put me into nightmares that bled through to my few minutes of semi-lucidity. I had ICU psychosis.

Covid patients suffer from icu psychosis

In The Plague Year, an extensive New Yorker piece on America’s experience with the coronavirus pandemic, Lawrence Wright touches on ICU psychosis in his description of COVID patient Chris Rogan. After being placed in a medically-induced coma and intubated for nine days, the 29-year-old told his wife that he’d been stabbed as a child. Just before he was intubated again, he felt certain he would die in the hospital. He didn’t wake up for 61 days, during which he believed he spoke with God. He survived, but when he finally left the hospital, he’d lost a leg to blood clots and the ability to move.

As he struggles to live with his impaired body, Chris Rogan clings to the belief that God spoke to him, psychosis or not.

Positive experience has overcome the psychosis

I didn’t experience death, a beckoning light, or God, just elaborate nightmares that seared indelible images into my brain. However, they no longer feel true. A critical part of my rehabilitation has been the accumulation of positive experiences that outweigh the bad dreams. The helplessness of the ICU has morphed into solid self-confidence as I engage in daily exercise. The black tunnel of despair has morphed into the blue skies of hope as the South Florida sun shines on my face. And the Turkish family we knew in the ER and ICU has become part of those new experiences, thanks to electronic media.

Yasemin gave us the good news through Facebook that her father has healed. She and her husband had a beautiful baby girl on America’s Independence Day. I spoke with them during the launch of my story Surviving Amsterdam in Kaleidoscope Wojo’s book, In Her Shoes. My husband sent a thank you card to the family matriarch whose warm empathy carried him through the dark days in the ICU. We heard that the card brought her to tears.

I am hopeful for the future

Although the rollout of the vaccine has had a bumpy start in Amsterdam and in Palm Beach County, we are confident that we — and our friends in Holland — will receive the life-restoring shot before long. When the pandemic is over, we hope to travel to Amsterdam to be with them all in person, or to welcome them to our sunny home for a tropical vacation.

My Christmas Cruise Would Have Been a 2020 Nightmare

Christmas with Carnival Cruises, 2018

Before my I very nearly died during our 2019 Atlantic crossing, my husband and I had become frequent cruisers. The ports of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami are a short drive from our South Florida home, and we enjoyed cruises through the Caribbean, on the Mediterranean, and on the Baltic Sea.

Two years ago, my husband and I sailed the Caribbean over the Christmas holidays. From over-the-top decorations to hilarious ugly sweater contests to heartwarming musical interludes, it was a celebratory week. Others may have prepared by creating wonderfully tacky sweaters, but we made a statement by wearing crazy Walmart hats and jingle bell slippers to breakfast on Christmas morning. “Nice hat,” a passenger said. “You with the guy in the other hat?” Yep, I have one very good sport of a husband.

That memory was nearly wiped out by my dramatic illness in 2019. Had we been in the middle of the ocean instead of docked in Amsterdam when I took ill, my story would have ended abruptly. We’ve kept an eye on the cruise industry this year, shuddering as ships became floating Coronavirus incubators in the spring.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended cruising in March and forced the industry to develop new protocols to protect crew and guests from COVID-19 when sailings resume. It all means new challenges for the on-board medical team.

Pandemic cancelled Cruising

There was no cruising for anyone these holidays. The CDC issued a “no sail” order on March 13, that infamous Friday last spring when the reality of the coronavirus was suddenly unavoidable.

Just before Thanksgiving, the CDC issued its highest warning against cruise travel, according to a USA Today article by Morgan Hines. Passenger operations out of the United States continue to be suspended, and the CDC recommends avoiding travel on any cruise ship worldwide.

Industry and florida suffer economic losses

South Florida is home to the cruise industry, which has suffered record losses during the shutdown, and hundreds of employees of support organizations have lost their jobs, including longshoremen, travel agents, shuttle systems. The economic impact on the industry has also been felt in Miami-Dade County, as these harmonious quotes demonstrate.

A ship can be safer than anywhere else in the world.

Frank Del Rio, CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said in May

A cruise is a hotel in the middle of the ocean that the doors and windows open all the time, and we have an incredible amount of wind coming in and out making it a safer place.

Rebeca Sosa, Miami-Dade County Commissioner

Cruise industry covid protocols

The Miami Herald reported that the 74 recommended protocols submitted to the CDC by the cruise industry include testing all passengers and crew before boarding, requiring social distancing and masks, and expanding medical capabilities on cruise ships. A protocol that was floated [pardon the pun] in March would have barred passengers over 70 years old, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. It was scrapped. We old people are huge component of the cruise industry’s customer base.

As Cassie Shortsleeve recently wrote in Condé Nast Traveler, the job of medical crews will take on new urgency once passengers are once again allowed on board. Medical staff will be more involved in pre-screening protocols. Passengers with respiratory symptoms — like I had during our Baltic Sea voyage and that my husband and hundreds more came down with bronchitis on our 2019 Atlantic crossing — will be quarantined in their rooms. Medical facilities will be separated into a control area — for those with infectious diseases — and an area for non-infectious patients. Some ships will strip down passengers rooms to create isolation units.

It’s hard to square these images with the true ER/ICU centers that saved my life in Amsterdam last year.

But are we ready?

Morgan Hines writes that there is pent-up demand for cruising. The industry continues to build new products to entice us to re-board.

The Carnival Mardi Gras, which has been under construction in Finland, will enter service in early 2021, sailing from Port Canaveral. Among the features of Carnival’s largest ship, with the maximum capacity of nearly 7000, is a roller coaster.

That seems like a really unnecessary addition. We’ve been terrified for months. Why would we go on vacation and purposely put ourselves into the very situation we’ve been trying to escape from? After a year like 2020, do we really need more ups and downs?

Nah. I’m sitting with the images of holiday cruises past, waiting for the day when the harsh 24/7 ER light of 2020 has shifted into the benign healthy glow of a sunset at sea.