January 1, 1991 – Caribbean Sea
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! blared the loudspeaker.
I shot out of bed and stood in the middle of the pitch black room with my heart racing. Where was I? What was happening? Oh yes. I signed up to work as a dialysis nurse on this nine story cruise ship for the week, and my payment was a free cruise. I went to bed early because I took a Dramamine tablet for my motion sickness. I drowsily climbed back into bed to sleep until my alarm clock awoke me at 5:30 a.m.
At 6 a.m. I joined my cabin mate, Laura, and Tess, two other dialysis nurses, in the dialysis room in the lowest level of the ship. The dialysis company had rolled on three dialysis recliners and three ancient dialysis machines along with gallons of dialysis fluid. In addition to the fee for their cruise, nine patients had each paid the company $1200 to dialyze them three times during this week-long cruise so they could see some places outside the USA. Once they left the USA, Medicare no longer paid for their life saving treatments. People with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) whose kidneys no longer cleaned their blood of toxins or removed fluids from their body needed 3-4 hours of dialysis three times weekly.
Our charge nurse, Ellen, divided us into two teams and assigned us to patients and times so we dialysed only while cruising at sea. Therefore when we were in ports, patients and nurses were free to go ashore and sightsee. The ship left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, then cruised to Key West, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cancun, Mexico and then returned to Florida on the seventh day. I met the qualifications since I had now worked for three years on a large dialysis unit in the midwest.
This is my first cruise. The seas are rolling, so I am suffering from motion sickness. I was blessed in reading Psalm 107:28-31: He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they are quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” Yes, the Lord is in charge of the seas and this ship. I thank Him for this opportunity to meet new people, see new places, and relax in between dialysis sessions. Laura was on the ship last week also for Christmas and said it was so rough she had to go to the ship’s clinic to get a shot to stop her vomiting. She appears to have her sea legs now. Terra firma felt fantastic when Laura and I went ashore at the different ports! !
Laura showed me how to prime the old machines with saline and enter the amount of fluid to remove for each patient during their prescribed length of dialysis. They did not use the new computerized machines that I was familiar with because the rolling motion of the ship made the alarms go off too often. Our three patients arrived at 6:30 a.m. Our supervising dialysis doctor for this week was also a dialysis patient. I am not sure how ethical this was since he gave me his own orders for dialysis, but it was too late now to do anything about it. Dr. C. was a kind gentleman who also brought his wife and young children with him on the cruise. After he weighed in and we calculated the amount of fluid to remove over the next 3.5 hours, he asked me to take an extra half pound off so he could eat and drink more! I reluctantly entered the amount as he ordered me to do. I took a deep breath as the ship rolled and inserted two large needles into his fistula in his arm. We checked each patient’s blood pressure every 15 minutes and recorded it. Patients and staff chatted together in the small room as three hours slowly passed.
I checked Dr. C’s blood pressure, but it was too low at 70/50! I quickly put his recliner back so he was flat and stopped the machine from removing any more fluid from his body. “Dr C, I know you wanted to get extra fluid off, but I really want you to be with us on this cruise the entire week, so I am giving you 100 cc of intravenous fluid now (about 1/2 cup) to raise your blood pressure.” His face was pale. He didn’t argue with me. He completed the treatment and left with his blood pressure back up to his baseline of 110/80.
Laura shared with me that she was in her twenties, a new widow, and this was her first Christmas and New Year since her husband died. He was one of her dialysis patients who received a kidney transplant. But six weeks after they married, he had a complication and died suddenly. She said she couldn’t face being with her family and being pitied, so she chose to drown her sorrow in work on the cruise ship with total strangers. I prayed that she would know the wonderful comfort of the Lord Jesus Christ, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3
Reflection – 2013
That was my first and last cruise due to the severe seasickness which plagued me. Even to this day, when I recall that long week, I still become nauseated! I truly thank God that they now have prescription medicine for severe nausea (Zofran) and also Sea Bands (acupressure bracelets). The Sea Bands work fairly well to prevent motion sickness when I am on a plane or train. But when rough weather is predicted, I take Zofran 30 minutes before my flight as it is much easier to prevent it rather than treat it after it occurs.
When I was in Israel in March, I gazed over the calm Mediterranean Sea and recalled the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck from the violent sea (Acts 27:14-44) and Jonah’s tempestuous voyage when he was thrown overboard (Jonah 1:15). God sometimes takes us through great storms in our life to teach us to rest and trust Him in the midst of the storm. In John 16:33 Jesus said, These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” I pray you will have a blessed New Year of looking unto Jesus and learning more of Him through the storms and the calm places in your life!