Now that we are home from the cruise [Carnival Ecstasy –September 3 – September 8, 2016] departing from Charleston, with stops at Half Moon Cay and Nassau, Bahamas, I realize there are times I still have sea legs. Earlier, while pouring a cup of coffee, my body swayed back and forth, just like the ship rocked while we were aboard. I laughed. Silly legs. Just keep moving!
Our cruise was booked about a year ago, perhaps longer. We reportedly won this cruise after listening to a time share pitch. Believe me, this was NOT a free cruise. After upgrading to an ocean view state room, paying the port fees, additional fees, this ‘free cruise’ cost us more than most people pay for cruises. Lessons Learned. Never attend another time share pitch!
Phil and I really needed this cruise. Quality time spent together after a dreadful, frightening summer where Phil had surgery on his left shoulder. Reverse shoulder replacement. Apparently a new procedure. The first surgery was May 31. While recuperating, he awoke one morning and his shoulder popped. We could feel the ball of the shoulder replacement extended out of place. We rushed to ER. After a long visit at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, the shoulder was popped back into place – a mild surgical procedure requiring anesthesia. The following day Phil returned home to recuperate. Recuperation was difficult. He fainted. And fainted…and FAINTED…so many times I’ve lost count. The man I stared at every morning had a face as white as a sheet. He moved in slow motion while he recuperated. The fainting spells continued, along with the visits to ER.
During the month of June, we visited ER seven times. In late June, still fainting at times, he visited the orthopedic surgeon for a post-op check-up. He complained about his left foot hurting. It was swollen. The doctor ordered an x-ray. The results of the x-ray revealed his left foot was fractured in several places. The news wasn’t encouraging for his shoulder either. X-rays revealed the shoulder replacement needed to be repeated – for the third time. On that occasion, we left the VA hospital with Phil’s foot wearing a boot and he was given a wheelchair. Two days later, Phil was admitted to the VA hospital with a surgery scheduled to re-do the reverse shoulder replacement.
To make a long story a bit short, my weakened husband tolerated a horrible experience during his recuperation. Filled with days of fainting and being told ‘he’s dehydrated.’ On the last occasion of his recurring fainting spells, I looked at the nurse and said: “If you tell me he is dehydrated again, I think I will scream. He’s drinking bottles and bottles of water!” She nodded at me. “He’s dehydrated; however, the doctors want to run some tests to see what is causing his dehydration.”
Because I nag Phil to drink water and I give him bottles of water to drink, he should not be dehydrated. A battery of tests was performed on him. All with good results. No heart issues. No brain issues. Apparently all of the medications he consumed [prescribed meds] were fighting with his body. We met with Pharmacology and other doctors. Suggestions were made to stop taking several medications.
By now, Phil has been away from work for almost three months. Gone were sick leave and vacation dates. We pinched pennies and tightened the family budget so we could survive financially. I am happy to report, Phil is back to work now and he appears to be getting stronger. Since the cruise was non-refundable, we chose to take the cruise and relax a bit. Neither of us cared to do all of the events a cruise ship offers. We wanted and desired some quality time without doctor’s appointments, visits to ER and other headaches we endured during his recovery.
Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Begins
And so – on September 3 – September 8, 2016, we cruised on the Carnival Ecstasy. This was our fourth cruise. Twice on Carnival including the Carnival Fantasy and now the Ecstasy. We’ve enjoyed Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruises too, but this cruise was different for us. All I wanted to do was see my husband relax and get stronger. When he had his first surgery we were told he lost four units of blood during the procedure. No wonder he is still pale in the face and so exhausted.
Before we departed the Charleston Harbor I kissed Phil, telling him to relax and have a good time. Occasionally, we ordered drinks, although neither of us could be described as lushes or alcoholics. One thing I can share about cruise ships, they do believe in sharing and encouraging people to drink alcohol. In the mornings…afternoons…and evenings…there is a crew ready and waiting to take your drink orders. While I am not criticizing drinking cocktails or alcohol, beer, and wine, and I do occasionally enjoy a nice glass of wine or an occasional cocktail, early morning cocktails and hangovers are not something I wish to participate in. I confess. I’ve had one hangover in my adult life. I prayed to God that I would survive it, and If I did, I would never get that intoxicated again. I’ve kept that rule!
Curiosity About the Cruise
Since we are home now, I’ve had friends and acquaintances ask me about the cruise ship and if I met Rina Patel. They wanted to know if she was drunk. I have no clue. I did see her in the hallways and on the decks, but for me, it doesn’t matter if she was drinking. I am heartbroken that she either lost her balance or jumped. I still believe she lost her balance and fell. She was on the 11th deck. I cannot criticize someone I do not know. Earlier today someone posted a message for me on Facebook, asking for my personal opinion. “Did she fall, or did she jump?”
I deleted the message. What does matter is she is lost at sea. Three days ago, in the darkness of early morning, something happened to Ms. Patel. My heart breaks for the family. Someone wrote she had a husband, and other family members present on the cruise. In my honest opinion, I have no right to make an opinion. After all, I wasn’t present when she disappeared. When I heard the news at 3:08 am, my heart sank for a moment, wondering what happened. May God give her family strength and guidance during this dreadful time of the unknown.
People ask me what happened. All I know is this, I was sleeping when I heard the broadcast expressing something like this:
At 3:08am, Wednesday, September 7, 2016 – the intercom announced:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve had a report of a passenger going overboard.”
Additional information was shared, but no mention of the identification of the passenger overboard. Hearing this sad news, I threw the covers back and stood by the ocean view window. I prayed for the passenger and the family. I did not know if the passenger was male or female, and I prayed the passenger would be rescued. While looking out into the ocean, I felt the ocean waters churning in reverse. The ship was backing up. I’ve never felt or noticed a ship going in reverse. Truly an experience I never want to feel again. The waters rolled in a backward motion while Carnival Ecstasy shook almost brutally.
Standing at the window, I saw search lights lighting up the dark of night. Another announcement was broadcast: “Rina Patel please contact Guest Services.” I was curious why guest services would make such an announcement while many of the passengers were sleeping. Maybe Rina Patel is the passenger overboard. At 3:27 am, a lifeboat was lowered. Four crew members were in the boat. Another announcement repeated the message again. “Rina Patel please contact Guest Services.”
Just WHO is Rina Patel and why must she contact Guest Services at 3:27 in the early morning.
I can still see the rescue boat in the waters, moving around and around the area near our ocean view window. The ship appears to be anchored now. We are not moving, only shaking. This ship is trembling from the reality of a passenger overboard. Dear God, please let them find the passenger.
Search lights continue lighting the ocean waters. Ocean waters bubble in reverse, reminding me of boiling water in a pot. White foam dances around the ship as the ship continues shaking. I hear a telephone ringing, realizing it is the room next to us. I hear someone whispering into the phone, obviously, upset and I wonder – is the family of the missing passenger next door to us?
At 4:06am, Guest Services request Rina Patel to please contact guest services. The wheels of my brain are curious now. Obviously, this Rina Patel is not responding to Guest Services. But – Who is Rina Patel, and why isn’t she contacting guest services?
Although I want to dress and rush upstairs to where the search is ongoing, I chose to remain in our room. Phil is sleeping soundly throughout this ordeal. I did not want him to awaken and discover me gone, only to be frightened that I might be the missing person. I could leave him a note, but what if he doesn’t find it?
Exhausted, I fall back to sleep in bed, praying for the missing passenger and the family, including Rina Patel. Something tells me she is the missing passenger.
At 9:00, Phil and I go poolside to get breakfast. Walking along the deck, I see a Coast Guard helicopter. Looking nearby at a window, Carnival Ecstasy is moving forward now. An announcement is made that the Coast Guard has released the ship to travel to Charleston. We are one hour behind arrival time now. “Further details about our arrival will be announced later.”
I pause while standing in line for food, praying a silent prayer for the passenger and the family. The mood appears somber and gloomy while standing in line. No party…party…PARTY or fun times this morning.
May God be with the family today and the additional days until the passenger is found. Arriving home at 9:07 am, I turn the TV on. I send a text to two friends to let them know I will not make our Weight Watchers meeting today. I share the news about the passenger overboard. One friend says she heard the news about the passenger this morning. My response was: “Did they share the name of the person overboard?”
“Yes.” She responds. “Rina Patel, 32-years-old.”
Rina Patel? We heard her name mentioned over the intercom so much. Something told me she was the passenger who fell overboard. Someone mentioned she was arguing with her mother, and then – she disappeared overboard. What a horrible tragedy.
Now two days after coming home, the news reports say the Coast Guard has ended the search. My thoughts and prayers are with the family during this unexpected time of grief. On Facebook, people post remarks saying “she was married and had beautiful children.”
As for my thoughts, it really doesn’t matter what I think. Did Rina Patel fall? Was she pushed? Did she jump? I do not know. I wasn’t a witness. At 2:45 in the morning, I was sleeping, until the intercom interrupted my sleep. My first reaction was something to the effect of: Oh my God. There must be an emergency. I struggled to remember where we would go IF the ship was in danger. I could not remember. After all, I was still half asleep.
Phil and I have been on four cruises. I suppose I could say, three cruises without any drama. One cruise with too much drama.
My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Rina Patel. What a tragedy.