Joondalup Health Campus
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Fond farewell to final Artania patient

May 28, 2020

Jürgen Schreyek — one of the sickest passengers aboard the cruise ship Artania — has won the battle against COVID making a miraculous recovery and finally heading home to Germany on Monday 25 May.

Staff were in tears, clapping and cheering on Mr Schreyek who was given a guard of honour as he was discharged. 

Mr Schreyek was the final Artania patient at JHC, having arrived at the hospital on March 30 with his wife Christina, who made a quicker recovery and flew home several weeks ago.

He spent two weeks in ICU and a further six weeks on the COVID ward and a rehabilitation ward, forming strong bonds with staff at every stage of his journey.
Speaking through a translator — Joondalup Health Campus registered nurse and fellow German Anne Karow — the 70-year-old said he considered himself incredibly lucky to be able to walk out of the hospital and go home. 

But he also said it was somewhat heartbreaking because he now considered some of the staff, including Ms Karow, as being like family.

Jürgen and Christina Schreyek are experienced cruise passengers and were looking forward to a month-long tour that would encompass Australia and New Zealand before island-hopping across the South-Pacific to Peru, from where the pair intended to fly home to Munich.

Their long-awaited holiday was not to be. 

When they boarded the Artania mid-March, they were told the journey could not continue.

The reasons behind it wasn’t specified, but they faced a decision: Stay on board on the presumption the vessel would return to Germany; or disembark and fly home – relying on an increasingly chaotic air travel environment.

They decided to stay.

By the time the Artania arrived in Fremantle for what was expected to be a short re-supply stop-over, cruise ships had become the hot-potato of the pandemic in Australia. 

“When we arrived in Fremantle, we couldn’t enter the harbor. [The ship was] supposed to go directly to Europe again,” Christina said through a translator.

Onboard, people were increasingly falling ill and eventually the vessel was able to dock in Fremantle.

“It was getting worse and worse, we were at the doctor every day because the disease had spread so much,” Christina said.

For his part, Jürgen was very unwell and required the support of a ventilator while still on board. 

Their fate was confirmed when the repatriation of as many passengers as possible was underway, and their names were called as people identified as being too unwell to fly.

“I already knew, like many others, that I’d been sick somehow – probably with Coronavirus. And when we left the ship, there were two police buses outside… with emergency lights on. They drove us at high speed. I didn’t know what was going on, or where I was going.”

Christina watched as her husband lost consciousness during the bus ride to Joondalup Health Campus.

Neither of them can clearly recall arriving at the hospital as they were in the grips of the virus, but Christina does remember being told her beloved husband needed support of a heart-lung machine.

“The rest I cannot remember, it is gone. The next day or so I thought clearly about it and asked where my husband was – he was in the intensive care unit.”

Two weeks later both they were recovering in hospital and full of praise for the quality of care they received at Joondalup Health Campus. 

“I knew it was severe. With his [Jürgen’s] heart and the lungs and I cried a lot and I was hugged and they cried with me. Everyone, no matter who it was, showed me so much love. It’s something that you cannot describe. I will never forget in my life this,” Christina said.

The couple have been reporting home to friends and family that no one would believe the quality of care. 

“I write every day to our friends in Germany and yesterday I wrote “you cannot imagine how we are treated; I think in Germany not even Angela Merkel is treated like this.” It’s really like that, we are happy,” Christina said.

You can watch a video about their experience here.