Aboard Our Hospital Cruise Ship

July 25, 2010 0 By Donna Wuerch



Several years ago, while we were on the 2nd day of a cruise to the Southern Caribbean, we were just about to retire for the night, when all of a sudden, the lights on the ship began to flicker and then we heard, and felt, the engines come to a fast stop. It was a dramatic sight as people ran to their cabins to get their life jackets. Fear seemed to permeate the passengers. We know many were thinking…. “TITANIC!!!!” On the other hand, Ron and I, completely calm since this was not our first cruise, moved through the passengers to encourage, settle down and help the crew bring peace to the situation. Yes, we had alarming news and even the loss of many vital necessities aboard the ship became cause for anxiety and discouragement. Sparing the details, I’ll tell you our cruise ended the next day because the ship’s engine had caught fire and as the ship was towed to Montego Bay (150 miles away), several 747 jets awaited to take the 1,500+ guests back to our home destinations. Many people were so upset about the inconvenience and that their cruise had ended so abruptly, but Ron and I kept thinking “something good is going to come out of this”. And, indeed it did — not only did we obtain a full refund for that cruise, but we were given an 8-day cruise for free on the ship and time of our choice. In addition, when we took the next cruise, our flights were overbooked on both legs, so we chose to receive the flight dollars to delay to the next flight — we received over $1,800 in flight dollars.

So here we are aboard our “Hospital Cruise Ship”. When Ron had his back surgery in April, we took ourselves out of the “hospital” mindset while he was recovering, and let our minds imagine ourselves on another cruise. When Ron’s dinner tray would come to our room (which we called “our cabin”), we’d have soft music playing and we would share the meal at a table in the room….and later we’d imagine walking the “Promenade Deck” as Ron needed to get his strength back by walking the halls of the hospital. But this trip to the hospital has been very different. One of the nurses, who was our nurse previously, remembered us and asked if we were on the cruise ship again, and my response was “No, not this time — the waters have been way too rough and the storms have been raging way too much!”

We were admitted to the hospital last Wednesday, July 14th, because of the severe back pain that Ron was experiencing. He began to run 104 degrees temperature and the next day we found out that he had a serious staph infection coming from the original surgery site that would take weeks of treatment. But that was only the beginning. As the tests started to come back that the infection was improving, other symptoms and concerns began to arise, and the pain still continued to increase. As Ron would walk to the wash room, we noticed that his legs had weakened and became rubber-like — and on three occasions he crumpled to the ground. Immediately, the neuro surgeon scheduled him for a milogram to determine if he had spinal cord compression again (as was in the first surgery in April, yet without neurological symptoms). In addition, lab tests came back showing his creatinine level (which measures the kidney function) was at 4.9 — our physician came in and said, “He is in kidney failure!” And to add to the negative news, that evening we were told the results of the milogram, “Indeed his spinal cord is being compressed by a tumor that has reappeared on the T-11 vertebrae and there must be immediate emergency surgery to prevent paralysis.” Suddenly, we were hearing….”TITANIC!!!” In the natural, it would be so easy to run to get our life jackets and be overcome with panic and fear, because, after all, his body is not in the same strong physical shape that it was in during the first surgery in April. Now, he has only one kidney, no gall bladder or adrenal gland; he is recovering from staph infection and we have been told he has signs of anemia. But, we continue to refuse to live in a state of alarm — instead we dialed 9-1-1 (that is: Psalms 91:1 — “He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”) We find that place by our trust and confidence in our Maker — knowing that He has a plan in place and our part is to seek peace in the midst of the storm. The neuro surgeon left our room, fully expecting to perform the surgery the next day (yesterday — Friday) if the lab reports were good, and we told him we would know the next morning what God’s plan would be by the peace in our hearts. As a family, once again, we prayed, we worshipped God, we sang, and we celebrated the gift of knowing that tomorrow morning, we’d be right in the middle of God’s plan. Friday morning came — Ron’s legs were stronger, he looked good, but lab results were not in yet that tell the team if he is ready for the surgery. The doctor’s schedule was full with a surgery at St. John’s at 7 a.m. and a day of patients to see coming in from all over the state. So the delay and the schedule were our first signals that haste should give way to rest in peace this weekend and get stronger to take on the surgery next week — especially since our primary neuro surgeon will be back to Tulsa after being out of the country for two weeks. So that’s what will happen….and oh, by the way, the lab work did come in and his creatinine level was down to 1.6 today — normal!!! Thanks be to God!

Today, Saturday, is our son’s birthday — what a great surprise we received when, flying in from Seattle, Ryan, Shawntel and the boys walked into our room last night. Ryan said “There’s no place I’d rather be on my birthday, than with my Dad”. God did have a plan for this “hospital cruise” — He knew our children and grandchildren would be here today to enjoy each other, laugh and celebrate. Yes, our “hospital cruise” continues for an extended voyage next week when we will move forward to another phase of our faith journey. Please pray for God’s wisdom to our medical team, Ron’s body to be fully capable of handling yet another surgery, and that all issues that have shown up in his body become normal. Thank you so much for your love and prayers. Your words of encouragement, your offers to help, and your sincere best wishes have been a true source of comfort to us! Happy sailing and cruising to you and we look forward to seeing you all very soon when we disembark at our Home Port of Call!