Sunday, March 21, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Comfort left her homeport of Baltimore, Md. in record time after receiving orders to make best speed to Haiti to provide medical aid to victims of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Jan. 12. The ship’s crew admitted their first patients three days after deploying and, following 49 days of operations off the coast of Port-au-Prince, had provided care to 794 Haitian nationals suffering from injuries ranging from crushed limbs to gangrenous wounds.
“What people did will affect medicine for a long time,” said Capt. James Ware, commanding officer of the medical treatment facility aboard Comfort. “People’s experiences and the lessons they learned will affect the way we treat earthquake related injuries in the future. I am very proud of the crew.”
A large part of Comfort’s medical efforts were devoted to surgeries. It took more than doctors, nurses and corpsmen to ensure that the 843 surgeries performed were successful, though. More than 1,400 Navy medical professionals and support personnel, ranging from culinary specialists to engineers, came together with civil mariners and nongovernmental volunteers to provide critical support to the multinational effort in Haiti.
The USAID-led mission in partnership with the government of Haiti presented a number of unique challenges. One of these was the communication barrier that existed between attending physicians and their patients.
“The ship initially had about ten people on board to help with translating,” said Chief Navy Career Counselor (SW) Marcel Blanfort, who headed up the translation department. “However, the commanding officer knew that the mission was of a greater scale.”
Seventy-five Sailors and one Marine from 39 military commands joined their shipmates along with 88 Red Cross volunteers, all French or Creole speaking, to bridge the gap. They interacted with patients and the medical staff aboard daily, working in the casualty receiving area, the operating rooms and after care wards where patients were brought following treatment.
“I was really glad to come down and help,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Yves Henry, a surgical technician and translator from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va. “We came and helped to the best of our ability. Some of the people that we helped would have died if we didn’t come.”
Now, eight weeks after their humanitarian mission began, Comfort’s crew is ready for a well-deserved reprieve.
“I’m excited about going home,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Vanal Lamour. “It will be nice to take some time to relax a little.”
Many of the personnel embarked with Comfort will leave the ship in Norfolk before the remaining crew continues their trek to Baltimore.
“It is all the support from people at home that helped to make this possible,” said Capt. Rodelio Laco, commodore, Task Group 41.8, who provided operational oversight aboard Comfort. “I would be proud to serve with any of these Sailors, any time, any where.”
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
On Monday, Sailors from the pastoral care department brought toys and clothes to children who are being treated at the University of Miami Field Hospital.
Volunteers there greeted our Sailors with open arms and welcomed their desire to help. The head volunteer RN there said, “The kids get bored and [the Sailors] play with them so that leaves more time to attend to the really sick ones, the ones who can’t get out of bed.”
Chaplian Joe Molina organized the day’s events, working with St. Margaret Mary’s Catholic School in Winter Part, Fla. Kids from the school donated toys, clothes, games and books to patients to help ease the transition of a country in ruins to one being reborn. Their generosity came at a time when leisure diversions are scarce in the Haiti.
The items were originally intended for patients being treated aboard Comfort, but the donations were so bountiful, Molina had more than enough to distribute them to other children in need.
Everyone who participated said they really enjoyed the opportunity to provide something for the kids there to help ease there troubles in some small way.
Comfort is not currently accepting donations, but if you are interested in providing donations to Haiti, USAID recommends assisting relief efforts by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. Information on organizations responding to the humanitarian situation in Haiti may be available at http://www.reliefweb.int/ and www.usaid.gov/haiti. USAID encourages cash donations because they allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region); reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, and warehouse space); can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; and ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
What started as a solemn service to remember the estimated 200,000 individuals who lost their lives and 300,000 injured turned to inspirational singing.
Comfort's chaplains, several Red Cross workers and patients felt a service conveying a feeling of hope would be beneficial to everyone aboard the hospital ship. The service included prayers and singing as well as a public reading by Lt. Yonnette Thomas of a letter of appreciation from a former Comfort patient.
The letter said, "'I know if you weren't here, many of us would be dead. This is the biggest proof of love the U.S. could offer the Haitian people. You have given us life.'"
Prayers were lead by Comfort chaplains and Red Cross volunteer Rev. Noster Montas. Singing was led by The Joyful Noise Choir and Red Cross translator Simpson St. Fort. The ceremony concluded with a benediction led by Comfort Chaplain John Franklin.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I’ll forever remember the evening when a couple mothers started singing quietly. Within minutes more than 40 children and escorts were singing hymns and spirituals together. Forgotten was the pain of missing limbs, open wounds or lost family. Forgotten was the exhaustion and weariness that had been weighing us down. At that time all those present-- patients, escorts and staff-- bonded together as those with so little lifted up their voices and hands in praise to God. That evening made every hardship worth it for me.
Seeing the precious children return to their families makes everything worth it.
Lt. Kenneth M. Cole, NC
3 Forward Pediatrics Ward
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
One evening last week there was an incredible event that took place on 3 Forward, a pediatric overflow ward. We were near capacity with children, parents or other family as escorts - families that had suffered such horrific times with unimaginable losses - family members, homes, and life threatening injuries. Softly and gently a few women began to sing. They were singing in Creole some of their familiar hymns and spirituals. The sounds were so soothing and melodic. As they continued several other parents and escorts joined in – soon all the children were singing and dancing to the enchanting sounds. Within minutes the entire ward was transformed into a place of joy. The staff and visitors were swaying to the music and every single person had a smile on their face. Over that amazing time we all bonded in a way that could not have ever been imagined. We were ONE in spite of all the sorrow, sadness and weariness; we were united in our humanity and purpose. Each person was uplifted as this glorious praise to God soared to the heavens from a hospital ship, the USNS Comfort anchored near such a devastated nation. In such times of chaos and loss it is so inspiring to witness such steadfast faith and devotion. We were all truly blessed to be a part of that precious moment and this mission. This is truly something that I will remember and cherish my whole life. Amen, Amen, Amen
Norah Bertschy, CAPT, NC
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
As I approached this big white ship splashed with numerous red crosses I knew what our mission was: to provide care and comfort to those affected by the massive earthquake. I quickly learned the seriousness of the natural disaster after seeing a majority of the patients on board and the types of injuries that were sustained.
I work in the laboratory so I am “behind the scenes” when it comes to patient care, but I treat each specimen tube or sample as if it was my son or daughter's. I do also make sure that I walk through the inpatient areas and ICU’s to help refocus the reason I am here. I find it hard sometimes to cope with what I have seen but it also helps to reaffirm why I am here and what role I play during this mission.
I am grateful to have been part of the best medical crew to sail over the open water. And I say to the countless victims in Haiti, we are here for you.
HM2 Justin W. La Croix, Comfort Main Laboratory
Monday, February 8, 2010
Last night I gained a new friend. He is a tiny little guy on the peds ward. I was going to the ward to get some information from one of my Sailors. As I was walking around the ward to find the Sailor, a little boy with one eye (the one I told you about) came up to me. He reached up to grab my finger and started pulling me along, as if to take a walk. Some of the other patients on the ward were singing and clapping. We walked/danced over to them and joined in. He can keep a beat very well. At one point he was tapping his foot, too. The smile one his face was so beautiful. We danced and clapped for a little bit then continued walking around the nurse’s station back to his mom. One of the Nurses on the ward had a camera and took a picture of us while we were walking.
I love you and will keep you posted on more amazing moments like this.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
As we go along, our processes just keep getting better allowing us to help more people. It's amazing to watch the teamwork and camaraderie develop. We usually take our first patients of the day at around 7 a.m. and continue embarking patients up to sunset. We can't fly patients after sunset over the water unless it's an emergency.
While the admittance of patients may stop at sunset, it doesn't mean we are done for the day. We ensure that we fill every bed in casualty receiving and the holding wards to maximize our patient flow.
We also use this time to take on supplies via helicopters. This usually requires a team of 40 Sailors or so, who have already put in a full day elsewhere. They do not complain, though. They came here to help and know that supplies are critical to our ability to do so.
When walking around at night, the fact that the ship never sleeps is apparent. Our wards are filling up, the OR runs to early in the morning, the ICU's are packed.
As night sets in, there is quiet professionalism displayed by the medical professionals as they go about the business of providing care to the injured. The supply folks move supplies to where they are needed so as not to impact the high volume of patient flow, the galley is open 24-hours-a-day, and the ships store and barbershop have extended hours to meet the demands of all of the shift work being done.
Every person aboard is focused and willing to give everything they have to help. And they do! With every little bit that they do, in each and every hour, from night to day, they are making a difference for the people of Haiti.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Our new crew members are a welcome sight. Like those on board, they have a can do attitude and are ready to help wherever they can. Some were directly involved in caring for patients within 90 minutes of their arrival.
In addition to the new crew members, we have embarked several Red Cross and Navy translators to ensure there is a clear line of communication between our doctors and the patients they are caring for.
Everyone is giving their all in this effort, not only doing the jobs that they were called to do here, but also assisting in other areas wherever they can. Sleep is a commodity that no one wants to purchase, instead pouring their all into the effort, getting just enough to maintain their sharpness to guarantee the best level of care that can be provided.
The good work continues and today will bring another wave of patients who need help, and the crew of Comfort stands ready to meet the demand from the very depth of their being.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Baby Esther was born 7 weeks premature and was named by her mother shortly before her c-section delivery. Her mother was aboard Comfort receiving care from injuries suffered in the earthquake that devastated Haiti Jan. 12. Fractures to her pelvis and femur caused her water to break early.
The Haitian woman underwent surgery following her c-section to fix her broken bones. As of this morning, Esther’s mom was in the Intensive Care Unit and she has yet to meet her baby girl.
This experience brought an additional level of morale to a crew that was already motivated.
So far, Comfort has seen 184 patients. 58 of those patients have undergone surgery.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Today was amazing for several reasons. Although their were faces which held despairand pain, there was relief from healing hands and an apparent admiration for the skill and compassion of the doctors, nurses and corpsmen aboard this ship. We all wear the uniform and we all serve a singular purpose to defend America; but here on this ship today, men and women of the United States Navy saved lives and genuinely performed out of the goodness of their hearts with the steely determination of their skilled minds. It was, to say the least, inspirational.
This is a feeling that you want to hold, that you want to keep it in a bottle and place it where you can see it and touch it all day long. It's the feeling of doing good for the sake of doing good and not because you're being watched or that there is another ulterior motive in mind. These men and women want to do their jobs and do it well. They deserve applause.
We will continue to communicate the story of what is happening here: the real life that is happening here, the humanity that is happening here, the good that is happening here. For it is truly - INSPIRATIONAL.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Shortly after 9 p.m. the loudspeakers aboard the ship, used to pass general messages, rang out an announcement that the ship would be going to flight quarters. This initial call to action was followed by other messages for medical team leaders to begin preparations to receive patients.
The ship took on a new life as aviation personnel, doctors, nurses, corpsman and other support services personnel mustered to prepare the floating 1,000-bed hospital to receive it's first two patients, inbound via helicopter from USS Carl Vinson.
The sheer thought of it is amazing. Just three days ago, Comfort got underway from her homeport of Baltimore to begin what was thought to be a six-day trip before the first patients would arrive. Instead, they are now on their way three days early due to the tireless efforts of the crew, who got the ship deployed in record time. This too is an astounding feat, given that the ship's mission requirement dictates that she be prepared to sail in no less than five days once a deployment order is received. Comfort did it in less than 77 hours!
In the three days that Comfort has been underway, the combined crew leaned forward on all fronts. All hands worked long hours to meet the needs of the patients they now have inbound. Their enthusiasm is contagious and has shown at the end of each day by the lack of standing room on the mess decks for nightly briefs to the crew. While not mandatory, the briefs have drawn a full house each night. Camaraderie is apparent at the briefs, which keep our Sailors abreast of any of the changes in our plans.
This evening, though, changes to the plan came quickly when coordination between key members aboard Carl Vinson and Comfort determined that patients intended to fly aboard Comfort tomorrow were in critical condition and needed top medical care tonight. The choice was an easy one for those aboard both vessels, and the decision was made to affect the transfer tonight to give a six-year-old boy with a bladder injury and pelvic fracture and a 20-year-old man with a head injury and skull fracture their best chances at a future brighter than the one presented in the aftermath of Jan. 12.
Tonight begins yet another step in the United States commitment to our Haitian neighbors already begun by our brothers and sisters on board Carl Vinson, Bataan, and our sister services. We are proud to be here to help. We are capable and eager to face the uncertain challenges of the days ahead. Most of all, we are thankful to be here early to bring much needed aid to our friends in Haiti!