Newlyweds’ cruise ship battle with Covid-19
It was a honeymoon for the record books.
Vincent and Trish Dyer left on a two-week cruise to the South Pole just as the coronavirus pandemic hit a year ago.
They then went through hell, stranded in the Pacific Ocean while countries refused to allow their ship entry and passengers around them fell ill and died because of Covid-19.
Thirty-two days later they eventually made it back to Bermuda and discovered they were also infected with the disease. Mr Dyer, 79, spent 67 days on a respirator in a medically induced coma; his wife struggled as she recovered on her own.
Both widowed, they’d known each other for years before they had an unexpected meeting on a cruise ship in 2018 and fell in love.
Two years later they married and decided to celebrate with a trip on board the Coral Princess.
“When we left Bermuda on March 1, we really hadn’t heard about Covid-19,” said Mrs Dyer, 71.
“It was way 'over there'; we didn't think it would touch us.”
After seeing the penguins in the Falkland Islands, things went haywire.
“We couldn't get off the ship anywhere,” Mrs Dyer said. “Nobody would take us and we just floated around the sea. We were trapped. Every time we saw a place we thought we could disembark, they wouldn't let us off.”
The Bermuda Government unsuccessfully tried to get them home. Eventually they were allowed to disembark in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Princess Cruises had arranged a plane but, unfortunately, there was not enough room for everyone. The Dyers reached the airport and were sent back to the ship.
“They didn't really want us back, but they had to take us,” Mrs Dyer said.
“We occupied ourselves by watching passengers being taken off the ship in Buenos Aires and being loaded into ambulances on the dock.”
At night, instead of the usual excursion report, the ship’s captain would broadcast the names and photographs of cruise passengers who had died.
“We recognised some of them,” Mrs Dyer said. “We had done excursions with them. It was surreal.”
On April 8 the ship reached Florida where the Dyers caught a flight organised by Princess Cruises.
They felt very tired on the way home but chalked it up to the stress of their ordeal.
After a day at The Loren At Pink Beach, where they were meant to quarantine for two weeks, Mr Dyer asked to go to hospital.
“We thought the problem was his hip,” Mrs Dyer said.
However once at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, a Covid-19 screening found they both had it.
“I think we probably picked it up in Buenos Aires,” Mrs Dyer said. “Everything was so chaotic.”
Although she felt extremely ill she was allowed to return to The Loren to recover. Mr Dyer was put in a coma and placed on a respirator.
“The bottom had just dropped out of everything for me,” Mrs Dyer said. “The whole experience was quite a rollercoaster because several times they didn't think he would make it. It was up and down. One day they would say his kidneys are failing. The next day they would say, oh his kidneys are fine, his heart is failing. The next day his heart was fine. It was crazy.”
To make matters worse she couldn’t visit her husband in hospital. She was, however, able to see him over the phone through the kindness of friends who worked in the ICU.
“As I was coming to, I thought we were getting up close to Christmas,” Mr Dyer said. “I asked my daughter-in-law to look for some gifts for my grandchildren. She said, ‘What? In July?’”
When he finally saw his wife again he initially did not remember that they had gotten married.
Just as he was about to finally go home, Mr Dyer’s lung collapsed. Although in need of a transplant his age – and Covid-19 – prevented him from being flown off the island to have one. Doctors performed emergency surgery without anaesthesia to insert a tracheotomy into his throat.
“They had no choice,” Mrs Dyer said. “They would have probably lost him if they didn't do it right away.”
After 223 days in the hospital, Mr Dyer went home on November 17.
He was 50lbs lighter. Too weak to move about on his own, he was put in a wheelchair.
“People don't recognise him now when they see him,” Mrs Dyer said, adding that her husband can now move around with a cane or walker.
Mr Dyer is grateful for all that she has done.
“She is my angel,” he said. “She has been with me the whole time. She was just wonderful. When she was able to visit she would be there every day with me from 12pm until 6pm. When it was time for her to go I would count the hours of loneliness I had ahead of me until she came back.”
Added his wife: “He gets very emotional. He gets overwhelmed with all that went wrong, and that he pulled through. It is a miracle. It totally is. He has only half a lung's capacity on one side but otherwise seems to be fine.”
Mr Dyer, who has three children, worked for the Bermuda Telephone Company for 30 years and then drove a taxi until he retired.
Mrs Dyer was in the reinsurance industry several years ago but more recently worked part-time as a church and school secretary. She has one daughter.
“Covid has definitely changed our outlook on life,” she said. “Without a doubt, we are both more grateful and thankful for God’s grace and mercy for bringing us through one of the most difficult and scariest challenges that either of us have ever experienced.”
As one might expect the Dyers don’t have much tolerance for people who don’t believe the coronavirus pandemic exists.
“It is really sad when people talk about Covid-19 as though it is a conspiracy,” Mrs Dyer said. “So many doctors and nurses have sacrificed so much, sometimes even their lives, to help people through this.”
In spite of it all, they hope to cruise again one day – just not right now.