Saturday, February 27, 2010

$2.5 Million in Relief

With many of the patients who initially received treatment being transferred to shore hospitals for after care, the Sailors on civilian mairners aboard have begun to focus there efforts on providing support where they can to thos facilities ashore. Last Thursday's evolution to offload $2.5 million in relief supplies is just one small example of those activities.

One hundred twenty pallets, consisting of general pharmaceuticals, health kits, dressings for wounds, and other medical supplies, were offloaded to an Army landing craft unit for transportation to a warehouse where the items will be cataloged before being sent on to help land-based medical treatment centers sustain follow-on care for Haitians injured in last month’s natural disaster. Many of these supplies will go to patients who were treated aboard Comfort.

The majority of the supplies were donated by non-governmental organizations, such as Project Hope. We've been working side-by-side with a lot of these organizations all along, and their help will continue to grow in imporatance in helping the government of Haiti with the long term recovery of the nation. They are capable, already on the ground, and doing a great job. The Comfort crew was happy to help boost that capability with the supplies.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Food Has Arrived

We had our first supply replenishment in a while on Thursday. Sailors and mariners from the Military Sealift Command worked side-by-side on the deck to load 230 palettes packed with food and other essential items to fuel the good work being conducted on board to help the people of Haiti. We were doing okay supply-wise before the lift, but we're doing much better now. Special thanks to the Supply Department aboard for making it all possible and to HSC 28 for providing the transportation of goods from the supply ship to our decks through the air. This photograph shot by Petty Officer Timothy Wilson shows everyone wrapping things up at the end of the night. Go team Comfort!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sailors Deliver Goodwill Items

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 and 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

Haitians find Comfort and Inspiration aboard Hospital Ship

Comfort's medical professionals, support personnel, civilian volunteers and patients gathered on the ship'smess deck for a service of remembrance and hope honoring Haitians affected by the earthquake that devastated Haiti one month ago.

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

Haiti Director of the Institute of Social Welfare Visits Children Aboard Comfort

100208-N-4995K-157 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Feb. 8, 2010) Jeanne Bernard Pierre, director of the Institute of Social Welfare in Haiti, visits an infant patient aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). Pierre visited Comfort to assess the needs of displaced children being treated. The Haitian government is working alongside the United Nations Children's Fund to ensure that displaced children are reunited with their families or placed in foster care. Comfort is at anchor near Port-au-Prince, Haiti supporting Operation Unified Response. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chelsea Kennedy/Released)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One Month in Haiti

Over the past month we have seen much trauma and sadness on board the USNS Comfort. However, these incidents are not what I will remember when I return to the United States, nor will it define my experience on board the USNS Comfort. Rather, my experience has been defined by the people of Haiti, especially the little kids who have experienced so much pain and sorrow. Yet these children are quick to smile or laugh. These children take such delight in coloring books, a peanut butter sandwich or an apple. Their courage and strength amidst this tragedy is what I’ll remember.

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

An Incredible Evening

Amidst all the tragedy and hard effort on the part of Comfort's crew to overcome it, there are moments that stand out and embody the very center of the human spirit. Here is one such story from a nurse practitioner aboard:

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

From the Lab

Hello everyone. In keeping with the intent to share a borader picture of what is going on all over the ship, here appears commentary as written by Petty Officer La Croix:

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

Making a New Friend

With the hundreds of Sailors aboard doing their part to help the people of Haiti, there are hundred of unique stories to be told every day. One of these stories a few days ago struck me in particular and I wanted to share it with you here:

Dear Beth,

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.

When we got to his mom, she reached out her arms and I said, in Creole to him, “tu Mama?” he clung to me tightly. Both his mom’s eyes and mine got really big. She and I both started to laugh at how wonderful it was that he was able to reach out and make a new friend despite how intimidating my 6’4” stature can be to his 2’4" one. We continued on another lap around the nurse’s station singing and dancing. We were both having a fantastic time. At one point we stopped for a bit so he could play ball with one of the other kids his size. After a few minutes of ball, we continued around and back to his mom. She reached her arms out once again and I said once again “tu Mama?” This time he went over to her and climbed into bed. I told him in good night in Creole. He climbed back out of bed, came over to me and gave me a big hug. Then he went back to bed to snuggle with his mom. Last night was his first time out of the bed since he first arrived on board, over two weeks ago.

I love you and will keep you posted on more amazing moments like this.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Admiral Harvey Meets With Project Hope Volunteers

100202-N-9318F-081 ABOARD USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20), At Anchor (Feb. 2, 2010) Adm. J.C. Harvey, Jr., Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, thanks members of Project HOPE for their assistance aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) during Operation Unified Response. More than 30 nations and hundred of NGOs like Project HOPE are supporting relief efforts in Haiti. Comfort's primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute medical facility for the country in the wake of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Jan. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Brian Finney/Released)

Admiral Harvey Visits Comfort Pediatrics

100202-N-9318F-077 ABOARD USNS COMFORT, At Sea (Feb. 2, 2010) Adm. J.C. Harvey, Jr., Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, visits the pediatric ward aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) with the department’s head, Cmdr. William Scouten, a Chesapeake, Va. native. The Military Sealift Command hospital ship is operating off the coast of Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response providing a full spectrum of hospital services to support disaster relief efforts in the battered Caribbean nation. The Navy has coordinated efforts with several nongovernmental organizations and U.S. agencies to bring critical services to the people of Haiti. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian Finney/Released)

USFFC Arrives Aboard Comfort

100202-N-9318F-038 ABOARD USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20), At Anchor (Feb. 2, 2010) USNS Comfort Sailors welcome Adm. J.C. Harvey, Jr., Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). Harvey came aboard the hospital ship to provide encouragement to the crew for the critical medical care they have provided to the people of Haiti in conjunction with Operation Unified Response since arriving off the Coast of Port-au-Prince Jan. 20. The Caribbean nation was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that has left 200,000 dead and another 300,000 injured according to Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Brian Finney/Released)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Father Reunites with Three-Month-Old Daughter

100202-N-1525C-070 ABOARD USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20), At Anchor (Feb. 2, 2010) Haitian national Antonio Jeanite is reunited with his three-month-old daughter, Christ-Yarah, aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) Feb. 2. "I am very happy," said Jeanite. "It has been seven days since I sent my daughter to another hospital." The reunion was helped along by Port-au-Prince native Fireman Jean Rabel, a Navy translator working aboard Comfort, and Lt. j.g. Joe Fiscus of Rochester, Pa. Sailors and civilians aboard Comfort are currently supporting Operation Unified Response, a multinational humanitarian effort to bring aid to the people of Haiti in the aftermath of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation Jan. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) J. L. Chirrick/Released)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Artist Finds Comfort Aboard U.S. Hospital Ship

100127-N-8366W-011 ABOARD USNS COMFORT (T-AH-20), At Anchor (Jan. 27, 2010) Haiti earthquake survivor Hugues Larose recently created a sketching representing events surrounding the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti Jan. 12. Larose is currently being treated for a leg injury by Sailors aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). Comfort is participating in Operation Unified Response, a multinational effort between military and nongovernmental agencies to provide humanitarian aid to ease the suffering of the people of Haiti. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Wilson/Released)

Art Provides Outlet for Haitian Man

100127-N-8366W-009 ABOARD USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20), At Anchor (Jan. 27, 2010) Hugues Larose, a survivor of the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12, shares a sketching he created from his memory of the incident with Capt. James Ware, commanding officer of the medical treatment facility aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). Larose is currently being treated on the hospital ship for injuries to his right leg caused by rubble falling onto him from a building during the earthquake. Comfort is participating in Operation Unified Response, a multinational effort between military and nongovermental agencies to provide humanitarian aid to ease the suffering of the Haitian people. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Ccommunication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Wilson/Released)

Healing Hands Lead to Smiles

100131-N-6410J-016 USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20), At Anchor (Jan. 31, 2010) – Lt. Sheila Almendras-Flaherty of Queens, New York, gets a smile from a young Haitian boy in the pediatric ward aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). Comfort is currently supporting Operation Unified Response along with more than 30 countries and 100 non-governmental organizations. The multinational force is providing humanitarian assistance to Haiti in the wake of a 7.0 earthquake that devastated the nation Jan. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Jackson/Released)

A Helping Hand

100131-N-6410J-002 USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20), At Anchor (Jan. 31, 2010) USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) nurse Lt. Sheila Almendras-Flaherty of Queens, New York, shifts a Haitian girl on her bed in the pediatric ward during Operation Unified Response. Comfort continues to accept and treat patients in conjunction with international disaster relief efforts to help the people of Haiti recover from an earthquake that struck Jan. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Jackson/Released)