Sue was not cruising in quarantine

Susan Lister was a passenger on the Italian cruise ship MSC Splendida, which departed from Dubai on March 12 this year.

Sue, 70, is a cancer survivor who lives with type 2 diabetes. She is also recovering from an Achilles tendon operation earlier this year and has problems with her other foot.

She is now home after two weeks of enforced quarantine at the Sydney Intercontinental Hotel in Macquarie Street. She arrived back in Australia via plane on Sunday, March 29.

Sue’s story

“I’d paid off the cruise by BPAY over 18 months. When the corona virus came along, they told us there were no refunds if we cancelled,” Sue said.
“The travel agent and the cruise operator told us everything was fine.”

Sue said some of her six children, 23 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren tried to talk her out of her travel plans.

“I can be a pretty stubborn old thing,” she says ruefully. “After paying all that money and being reassured that the cruise would stay on schedule, I wouldn’t listen.”

Sue, who lives at Bribie Island, was travelling with nine girlfriends who met years ago through Hash House Harriers, a social running club.

“I used to love a good run or walk, but I lost part of my right lung after surgery for bi-lateral lung cancer in 2017.

“I also had radiation, which has caused problems with swallowing.

“When all of this was happening, that’s when they found out I had type 2 diabetes.”

Sue said she has had high blood pressure for many years.

She has also suffered three bouts of diverticulitis in the past year, and has to be careful with what she eats.

There wasn’t any choice in quarantine.

“The food was not good,” Sue said. “There was very little protein.

“They delivered frozen food that had been reheated and by the time you got it, it was cold. It was all shrunken under the plastic wrap. The meals were awful.”

The ill-fated cruise

At the beginning of her trip, Sue and her friends flew to Dubai on March 9 and stayed two nights before boarding the cruise.

“When we got to Dubai we were told again that everything was on track and the cruise would go ahead according to plan.

“We found out later that 800 people didn’t join the cruise who had been booked to go on, and some of them decided against it after they arrived in Dubai.

“By that time, we were all already on the ship.”

Sue and her friends were looking forward to a 17-day cruise through the Middle East and other ports, to end their trip in Milan. It couldn’t progress.

“All of the ports started shutting as soon as we sailed from Dubai. We did sail through the Suez Canal but we docked in Marseilles on March 24 after everything closed.

“From there we caught a flight to England. One of the girls I was travelling with had a cousin in Slough, a suburb of London, and we stayed with her for two nights.

“A flight home had been organised for us on Qantas.”

Sue said there were a lot of delays at every point. At Marseilles the were kept waiting from 10.30am to 4.30pm with no food or water.

“They called all diabetics and offered us chips, peanuts, water and a few apples that the Australian Consul lady had in her car.

“We left Marseilles at 7pm that night.”

Sue and her travel companions had to split up in London to follow different instructions from the Australian Consul to get them home. Sue flew from London on Friday, March 27, via Darwin for refuelling.

They arrived in Sydney on the Sunday.

Return to Australia

“One of our party has been hospitalised in Australia with pneumonia. She’s very sick. She’s been tested twice for corona virus but she’s been negative twice.”

Sue is grateful to be back on Australian soil and even more grateful to now be home.

In quarantine, Sue and her fellow travellers were not allowed any time outside for fresh air and exercise, and police were patrolling the corridors. Sue ate what she could and did daily exercises in her room.

“I’m fortunate,” Sue said. “I was in a room that had a shower in a high bath. I got in one day but I was frightened I’d fall. They transferred me to another room with easier access to the shower. It’s got a window at least with a view of the Opera House.”

Sue left her blood glucose testing kit at home by accident and didn’t know how she was tracking with her diabetes. She takes blood pressure tablets and metformin daily, and got worried when she got down to only four days left of her blood pressure tablets.

“A Red Cross nurse started ringing to see how I’m getting on. They told me to ring them to let them know I needed blood pressure tablets.”

Sue has also rung the diabetes hotline and spoken with Donna, a CDE and pharmacist, who “was kind and very helpful”.

Sue says the best part of this trip was getting home to her unit at Bribie Island.

“I had a little cry in the first couple of days in quarantine. I counted down the days until I could go home.”

If you would like to talk with a diabetes professional, please ring the Diabetes NSW & ACT number on 1300 342 238.

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