An unexpected twist in the journey
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Please forgive my tardiness in reporting that a medical emergency has required me to
leave the Semester at Sea voyage and return to Santa Barbara for treatment and
recovery. While this has come as a great disappointment to me, I am deeply grateful to
be alive and to be able to report that the collaborative work between the shipboard
community and the team here in the United States will continue to fruition in the weeks
and months to come.
On the day that the ship arrived in Gdansk, Poland, I began to experience severe pain in
my head that persisted for the following 11 days until the ship arrived in Lisbon,
Portugal. In a hospital there a brain scan revealed that I was suffering from a subdural
hematoma, a pooling of blood into the brain from a rupture of a vessel or vessels in the
lining beneath the skull. Since such a condition is usually caused by a blow to or strong
shaking of the head, this finding came as a surprise to me and the doctors since neither
had occurred in my case. Nor were there any signs that I had experienced a stroke. The
pain in my head persisted.
A few days later in Cadiz, Spain, another brain scan disclosed that the hematoma had
not increased in size, and it was decided by Semester at Sea officials in consultation with
its medical team and insurer that I should be flown home under a doctor’s care for
treatment and care. In early October surgery was performed in Santa Barbara to staunch
further bleeding into the brain. During this procedure, the surgeon discovered an
aneurysm in an artery carrying blood to my brain, and a surgery to repair it will soon be
The good news is that the students and I made a strong beginning in their Earth Day Ambassadors 2020 work before my leaving the ship and that the work is continuing apace under the direction of Nancy Black and Siarah Barnum in California, with support from Kirk Boyd, Missy Lehrer and John Foran. Jackie Gold, chair of the student working group, is leading the Earth Day Club onboard the ship, working with students on their specific Earth Day projects.
By the time that the Semester at Sea students and faculty arrive in San Diego on December 23 (where I will be there to greet and thank them), they will be well prepared to take on many ant tasks in planning and implementing important Earth Day 2020 events in their communities all across the country in the following weeks and months.
The hematoma event turns out to have been a blessing, as my doctor points out that the aneurysm posed a deadly threat that might not otherwise have been detected.
I will keep you all posted on my recovery.