Fri. Apr 19th, 2024
alert-–-stranded-80-year-old-norwegian-cruise-passenger-suffered-a-stroke-and-was-left-‘alone’-to-find-her-way-back-to-the-us-from-remote-african-island-after-vessel’s-medical-team-decided-she-needed-treatment-on-landAlert – Stranded 80-year-old Norwegian Cruise passenger suffered a stroke and was left ‘alone’ to find her way back to the US from remote African island after vessel’s medical team decided she needed treatment on land

An 80-year-old grandmother suffered a stroke during a Norwegian cruise and was left behind on a remote African island – and now her family demands the cruise line take accountability.

Julie Lenkoff had embarked on a museum tour on São Tomé and Principe, an island off western Africa, on March 27 when she suddenly collapsed and fell unconscious.

Lenkoff was on the 21-night Norwegian Dawn cruise that saw eight other passengers on a different tour stranded in the capital city of São Tomé the same day.

A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line told DailyMail.com that Lenkoff was ‘medically disembarked’ following an evaluation by onboard medical staff, who determined she would need treatment at a local hospital.

It was then the cruise line lost contact with her.

Julie Lenkoff, 80, left her Norwegian Dawn cruise for a tour on São Tomé and Principe, a remote island off western Africa, when she suddenly suffered a stroke

Julie Lenkoff, 80, left her Norwegian Dawn cruise for a tour on São Tomé and Principe, a remote island off western Africa, when she suddenly suffered a stroke

The elderly woman was taken to a local hospital in the capital city of São Tomé after on-board medical staff determined the need for further treatment

The elderly woman was taken to a local hospital in the capital city of São Tomé after on-board medical staff determined the need for further treatment

She was ultimately flown back to California to reunite with family (pictured: Lenkoff and her daughter Lana Lenkoff Wilken-Gies at Stanford University Medical Center)

She was ultimately flown back to California to reunite with family (pictured: Lenkoff and her daughter Lana Lenkoff Wilken-Gies at Stanford University Medical Center)

‘How or who was contacted to get her to the limited medical clinic we do not know,’ Lenkoff’s daughter, Lana Lenkoff Wilken-Gies, wrote on Facebook.

‘We just know that she was left by Norwegian Cruise Line without as much as calling her emergency contacts, or leaving her with her wallet, credit cards, or travel Insurance papers at the clinic…or maybe a note for her to read when she came to. All she had was her passport.’

The elderly woman was ‘disoriented and had trouble speaking, seeing or moving her left side of her body’ when she woke up, according to Wilken-Gies.

Despite her condition, Lenkoff was released from the hospital 24 hours later.

As she was released in a ‘coherent state,’ the spokesperson said, ‘our protocol is to contact the guest directly, as we would not have the authority to share any medical details with anyone else without their expressed consent.’

The cruise line worked with a port agent in São Tomé and Príncipe to receive updates on the 80-year-old. As for Lenkoff’s family, they were left in the dark.

‘My reaction first was shock,’ Wilken-Gies told KTVU. ‘I cried, I couldn’t believe – my poor mom, what’s going on?’ 

The eight other stranded passengers – including a South Carolina couple, Jay and Jill Campbell – helped the woman navigate the unfamiliar streets of São Tomé.

They retrieved her suitcase after it was left on the dock but were unable to get her credit cards, travel documents and money from the safe in her room, as they had missed the 3 pm ‘all aboard’ time and were denied re-entry.

The spokesperson for the cruise line stated that Lenkoff ‘left with all of her belongings’ when she was medically disembarked.

Eight other passengers who had been stranded by the same cruise after missing the 3 pm 'all aboard' time helped Lenkoff navigate the city

They helped her check into a hotel and stayed in touch with her family

Eight other passengers who had been stranded by the same cruise after missing the 3 pm ‘all aboard’ time helped Lenkoff navigate the city and check into a hotel while staying in touch with her family

Lenkoff's daughter (left) said her mother's credit cards, travel papers and money were left in a safe on the ship, but later turned up under the seat in a tour van

Lenkoff’s daughter (left) said her mother’s credit cards, travel papers and money were left in a safe on the ship, but later turned up under the seat in a tour van

The other passengers helped coordinate getting the 80-year-old on a flight from São Tomé to Lisbon, the first leg of a trip that would reunite her with family in California

The other passengers helped coordinate getting the 80-year-old on a flight from São Tomé to Lisbon, the first leg of a trip that would reunite her with family in California

Son-in-law Kurt Gies confirmed that Lenkoff had touched down Sunday night and was taken to the emergency room to be evaluated

Son-in-law Kurt Gies confirmed that Lenkoff had touched down Sunday night and was taken to the emergency room to be evaluated 

The other travelers helped Lenkoff find a hotel and stayed with her, all the while keeping in contact with her family members back in California, Wilken-Gies said.

The embassy was trying to get a hold of NCL to see if they could get her medically evacuated to the U.S. but had no success,’ she added.

The Campbells helped coordinate getting Lenkoff on a flight from São Tomé to Lisbon, the first leg of a lengthy trip back home.

They affixed an AirTag to the elderly woman so her daughter could track her during her travels.

‘The great news is that her wallet and credit cards were somehow mysteriously found in a “tour van under a seat“ and returned to her just moments before her departure,’ Wilken-Gies said.

Norwegian confirmed that Lenkoff had landed in Portugal before she was ‘put in the care of airport staff to continue her journey to the United States.’

She has since returned to California, where she was admitted into the Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, according to son-in-law Kurt Gies.

In his own Facebook post, Gies announced that Lenkoff arrived Sunday night and was admitted to the Stanford University Medical Center to be evaluated. 

‘She’s a trooper. Successfully completing the 30 hours of flights with a smile on her face when she saw us. What a great Easter gift!’ he wrote.

In a social media post, Gies (pictured with Wilken-Gies) expressed his gratitude to the eight other passengers who he believes saved his mother-in-law's life

In a social media post, Gies (pictured with Wilken-Gies) expressed his gratitude to the eight other passengers who he believes saved his mother-in-law’s life

The group retrieved Lenkoff's suitcase from the dock after it was left there by cruise staff

The group retrieved Lenkoff’s suitcase from the dock after it was left there by cruise staff

After Lenkoff makes a recovery, she will complete the final leg of her journey to return home to Eugene, Oregon

After Lenkoff makes a recovery, she will complete the final leg of her journey to return home to Eugene, Oregon

On April 1, Wilken-Gies shared a selfie taken with her mother in the emergency room.

‘Having an EKG right now….She is definitely much more like her old self! Getting better everyday! Thank you for all of your prayers! ‘ she wrote.

After Lenkoff makes a recovery, she will continue her journey to return home to Eugene, Oregon.

In a social media post, Gries expressed his gratitude to the eight other passengers who ‘saved Julia’s life.’

‘NCL owes them the courtesy of allowing them to rejoin the ship,’ he wrote. ‘No one should ever be treated this way. Especially a company that was paid almost $20,000 for the cruise.’

The group had attempted to rejoin the ship in Banjul, the Gambia, where it was scheduled to make a stop on April 1.

However, high tides and tumultuous weather prevented it from docking, meaning the group was forced to travel onward to Senegal.

The Campbells now say they aren’t sure they want to get back on the ship, even after reuniting with it.

Speaking to USA TODAY from a hotel room in Dakar, Jill Campbell said she believed the ship had followed its policies ‘too rigidly.’

‘I believe that they really forgot that they are people working in the hospitality industry and that really the safety and the well-being of the customers should be their first priority, and that should be placed first,’ she said.

‘We believe there was a basic duty of care that they’ve forgotten about so it does concern us.’

The 80-year-old mother and grandmother (pictured with family) is suspected to have suffered a heart attack in addition to a stroke

The 80-year-old mother and grandmother (pictured with family) is suspected to have suffered a heart attack in addition to a stroke

Wilken-Gies said her mother's credit cards and wallet turned up under a seat in a tour bus and were handed over before her flight to Portugal

Wilken-Gies said her mother’s credit cards and wallet turned up under a seat in a tour bus and were handed over before her flight to Portugal

Lenkoff’s family share in the sentiment.

‘That happens,’ Gies said of the elderly woman’s stroke. ‘That’s not their fault, we get that.

‘It’s how you treat that person and how you care for that person and how you tend to that person is what they failed at.

‘There’s a lot of 80-year-olds, there’s a lot of people that are elderly,  that take these cruises. They need to be hugely and extremely aware that they have very little rights when something goes wrong.’

On Facebook, he lambasted the cruise line for ‘abandoning’ his mother-in-law. 

‘Maybe someday NCL will release an official statement about why they abandoned our mother, never called us who was her emergency point of contact, lost her money and credit cards, and left it up to her to find a way home, even though she had suffered a significant stroke and possible heart attack according to the Stanford Medical Center, and was unable to care for herself,’ he wrote.