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Navy Based Hospital Arrives a Day Early and Able to Treat Quake Victims


The Navy’s Comfort wasn't supposed to arrive until sometime Thursday, but Haitian patients were taken on board even before the ship ported to get the urgent help they so desperately need. The comfort has 1,100 doctors, nurses and support staff.

Comfort is a flexible and mobile surgical hospital used by appropriate US Government agencies in disaster or humanitarian relief or limited humanitarian care incident to these missions or peacetime military operations.

On board the Comfort is Dr. Mill Etienne, who has a personal stake above all others on the mission of mercy to Haiti. Etienne stated, “Lots of family friends are still not found." Etienne is not only a neurologist who specializes in head injuries; he is also a Haitian refugee whose family went to New York when he was 5 years old. "It's very emotional," Etienne said.

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"Haitians are fighters. And, even though there is a huge disaster, anyone, like my cousin who we found at the bottom of the building, she was there. Hanging in there. Waiting for somebody to come and discover her and get her out of there," Etienne said.

The first two patients was a young 6-year-old boy who had a crushed pelvis and possible damage to his bladder and urethra and a 20-year-old man who had a spinal fracture and bleeding in the brain.
“We've been waiting, ready to assist. It just happened a little earlier than we expected," said Cmdr. Tim Donahue, head of surgery on the Comfort. "But that's OK. We're ready."

The Comfort will be the first "level 3" treatment in earthquake-stricken Port-au-Prince, offering complex surgery and intensive care that is unavailable from first-response teams or makeshift field hospitals. In combat parlance, it is akin to a military hospital such as the Army trauma center in Baghdad - the closest full-service surgical center to the action.

The ship which has two helicopters will be begin flying early today and will carry with them an assessment team which will be headed by Capt. Rich Sharpe, a trauma surgeon from the Navy hospital in Portsmouth, Va. He joined the Comfort mission not only as a surgeon but to use his experience in potentially dangerous environments. "We expect Haiti to be a lot like a combat environment," said Sharpe.

Lt. Adam Cooper who is an emergency room physician from Philadelphia and a Navy reservist stated, "You don't know what's going to come off the helicopter, but we're used to that," We're all just trying to put every ounce of effort that we can into it. And I think it's come together. We're ready."