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Daughter speaks out after cruise leaves hospitalized 80-year-old mother on African island

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) — While eight of the nine passengers stranded on São Tomé and Príncipe continue to scramble to make their way back onboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, one woman is already back in the United States.

Julia Lenkoff, 80, is a seasoned traveler. She's been to nearly 120 countries, speaks 10 languages and often travels by herself.

It's important to note that Lenkoff was on a Norwegian-sponsored tour, a different one from the rest of the group when she had a medical emergency.

"I just know how much she was looking forward to this trip, and it was so exciting for her. And here she was on day eight, and I just felt really bad for her," said Lana Gies, her daughter.

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Gies said her mother was sent to a hospital in São Tomé and released the next day. Eight other stranded passengers, including Garden City couple Jill and Jay Campbell, met Lenkoff after she was released and took care of her.

"When Jill said she's got some confusion, that freaked me out," Gies said.

Lenkoff felt dizzy, couldn't feel the right side of her body and at one point she responded in French when people spoke to her.

She doesn't speak French on a regular basis," Gies said. "It's not something that, you know, these are all signs of brain injury.

According to a statement from Norwegian Cruise Line, Lenkoff was medically disembarked after their onboard medical team decided it was best that she be treated at a local hospital.

However, Lenkoff said that her mother never re-embarked the ship when she experienced her medical emergency and their medical team never examined her.

The statement continued to say, "As the guest was released from the hospital and in a coherent state, our protocol is to contact the guest directly, as we would not have the authority to share any medical information with anyone else without their expressed consent."

"They released her from the hospital. They couldn't contact me, because they don't contact the next of kin while the other person is perfectly fine," Gies said.

But from what Gies saw, her mother was not fine.

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She said she and her husband worked for 36 hours straight to get Lenkoff back to the U.S.

They arranged for her to fly from São Tomé to Lisbon to Toronto and then San Francisco where she was immediately transported to Stanford Medical Center for treatment.

We said we thought she had a small stroke, and the doctor said 'Well, I wouldn't say it was a small stroke, I would say you had a pretty significant stroke,'" Gies said.

Lenkoff has been in the hospital since Monday and has gone through a number of tests.

She had a second stroke Monday night, but it was milder and she is doing okay.

Gies said she still hasn't heard from Norwegian Cruise Line about the incident.

"I have not had a verbal conversation with anybody from Norwegian, and they know who I am," Gies said.

ABC15 News has reached back out to Norwegian Cruise Line for comment but we are still waiting to hear back.

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