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West Ashley man who suffered a stroke on cruise ship still recovering after months in the hospital

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 7:03 PM EDT|Updated: May. 19, 2022 at 11:32 PM EDT
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WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCSC) - Margaret Baumer says her husband loves his job, loves to move, loves his family and loves his life. But ever since December 4, their lives have changed.

Her husband, Craig Baumer, suffered a stroke on a cruise ship heading back toward Florida, and they are still recovering. Emergency crews airlifted Craig from the ship and took him to a hospital in Miami. Margaret says there wasn’t space for anyone to go with him.

“We were on the ship, not knowing how he was, and it was very difficult,” Margaret said. “They called up back about 4 or 5 hours later saying he didn’t have to have surgery, that the bleeding just stopped.”

She says it’s a miracle he survived the initial stroke, but Craig is a fighter.

“He was on so many prayer lists,” she said. “I called my mom, and my mom called my family, and everybody knew, and that’s what saved it. It saved his life. And he’s very, very lucky to have survived.”

But their struggles were far from over. Margaret and her daughter Brittany Baumer stayed in Miami, paying out of pocket, to live near Craig for months.

“We’ve been married 27 years, and he’s my world,” Margaret said. “I’m disabled, and he’s been taking care of me for the last 18 years, and now it’s time for me to take care of him. There’s no way I would have left my husband down there in Miami, Florida.”

Craig spent months on a ventilator with a trach, mostly in the ICU, with other complications like pneumonia and multiple infections. Brittany and Margaret say they never once considered leaving his side, despite the cost.

Margaret says the bills began to pile up. His insurance only paid $7,000 of nearly $20,000 to airlift Craig to safety. Her family spent more than $50,000 just to stay in Miami and be with him for months. She says it’s thanks to the generosity of friends and family that they are making it through.

“I had no idea where that money was coming from,” Margaret said. ‘Something happened. And we got money. And God provided the entire time, he’s still providing. So yeah, my faith has been strengthened. My family bonds have been strengthened. I realized how many people really love and care about that man and about us.”

Margaret and Brittany say while in Miami, Craig was surviving, but not recovering. They knew they had to get him home. Brittany drove her father 10 hours back to South Carolina, and he has been in the care of Roper Hospital and MUSC rehab since. After more scans back in Charleston, they found out Craig had suffered three more strokes that went unnoticed and untreated during his time in Miami.

“Stroke victims recover so slowly, everything happens so slowly because your brain has to recuperate,” Margaret said. “And so yeah, patience, you got to have it. Nothing happens fast. And my faith has been strengthened because I am 110% convinced that God saved his life that night.”

While she and her family are still facing mounting bills and the logistics of Craig’s home care, they want to thank everyone who has been there for them every step of the way.

“You’ve got to depend on other people. That’s something I’ve learned. People say what can I do to help..” Margaret starts, “Take them up on it,” Brittany finishes.

Margaret says if she’s learned anything from her experience, it’s to be as prepared as possible. She says you have to travel with insurance and make sure you are able to be in charge of your loved one’s affairs, just in case.

“If you don’t advocate for your loved one, no one else will,” Margaret says. “Especially if they can’t talk and they cant communicate themselves.”

The women say Craig is still recovering from the stroke impacts and will be for a while, but they are happy to have their family intact.

They are all looking forward to his return home. Craig is expected to go home on June 1, just shy of six months since his first stroke.

Margaret says when she told Craig she has a new appreciation for life, he agreed and says he’s looking forward to getting back to everything and everyone he loves.

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