Family of 80-year-old stroke patient says cruise line left her to fend for herself

A couple shared an ordeal they experienced after the wife's mother suffered a stroke while on vacation. 
They said the 80-year-old suffered the medical emergency after she got off a cruise ship to go on an excursion.
Julia Lenkoff's daughter and son-in-law said other passengers saved her life and that the cruise line didn't do much to help. They said Lenkoff is in serious condition, and she's now being treated at Stanford Medical Center.

Her daughter, Lana Gies, found herself navigating uncharted waters. She came to Pacifica from Orlando, Florida,to take care of family business and spend time with a friend. But on Thursday, she received unexpected news that her mother suffered a stroke while she was on a Norwegian Cruise Line trip touring African countries. 

"My reaction first was shock. I cried. My mom, I couldn't believe it, my poor mom. What's going on," said Lana.  

Lana and her husband Kurt Gies learned from passengers who called them that Lenkoff had gotten sick. They said she was on a cruise line sponsored excursion in São Tomé, the capital city of the central African country with the same name. 

The couple said Lenkoff was taken to the hospital, released 24 hours later and left to fend for herself. They said Lankoff only had her passport and that the Norwegian had delivered her belongings to her, but her money and credit cards were missing.
They said the cruise line should do a better job of notifying the passenger's emergency contact when there is a problem.

"That happens. That's not their fault. We get that. It's how you treat that person, how you care for that person is what they failed at," said Lenkoff's son-in-law Kurt.  

The couple said they're grateful to a group of American passengers, including a couple from South Carolina, who was also stranded after returning to the cruise ship late from a different excursion. They took care of Lenkoff, including getting her a hotel room. 

KTVU reached out to Norwegian Cruise Line and its response only addressed the passengers who missed their transport, but not what happened to Lenkoff.
It said in part, "While this is a very unfortunate situation, guests are responsible for ensuring they return to the ship at the published time, which is communicated broadly over the ship’s intercom, in the daily communication and posted just before exiting the vessel."

The couple said they arranged for mom to fly home on commercial flights. 
"It was just really hard to experience that. She was helpless, alone. And yet, she made it," said Lana. .

Lenkoff, a mother and grandmother, landed at SFO on Sunday night and was transported to Stanford Medical Center.

"There are a lot of 80-year-olds, a lot of other elderly people who take these cruises. They need to be hugely and extremely aware that they have very little rights when something goes wrong," said Kurt.  

The couple said they are now focusing on Lenkoff's recovery and getting her back home to Eugene, Oregon. There is no word yet on when she'll be discharged from Stanford Medical Center.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.