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Comfort Receives First Haitian Patients

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD THE USNS COMFORT, Jan. 20, 2010 – In a life-saving move, a Navy helicopter transported two severely injured Haitians to receive treatment aboard this hospital ship.

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Medical professionals aboard USNS Comfort treat a 6-year-old Haitian boy in the casualty receiving room after he was flown aboard by helicopter from USS Carl Vinson, Jan. 19, 2010. The boy and a 20-year-old were the first Hatian patients to arrive aboard the 1,000-bed hospital ship.
  

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The Comfort received the patients last night while it was still steaming toward Haiti. The patients -- a 6-year-old boy and 20-year-old man -- had received care on the USS Carl Vinson, a U.S. aircraft carrier.

“The senior medical officer sent the patients on to receive care with us,” said Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Tim Donahue, the Comfort’s chief of surgery. Both were in critical condition.

The 20-year-old patient has a broken skull and possibly a fractured cervical vertebrae. Doctors aboard the Vinson also suspected there might be bleeding inside his skull. The 6-year-old patient has a crushed pelvis and possible damage to his bladder and urethra.

At 10:24 p.m., the call came to casualty receiving: “Helos on deck.” Stretcher bearers removed the patients from the Vinson’s chopper and moved them via elevator to the receiving area.

The patients were met by a phalanx of doctors, nurses and corpsmen and placed in an assessment area. The sailors went about their duties professionally and quietly.

The boy was conscious and able to answer questions. A Haitian-American servicemember – Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Yves Henry – translated the doctor’s questions to the boy and his answers back.

The boy had undergone surgery aboard the Vinson two days before. The medics aboard the Vinson sent him to the Comfort to take advantage of the expertise and equipment aboard the vessel.

The other patient had a tube inserted in his throat and could not speak. Doctors took X-rays of him on the gurney and then moved him to another area to receive a CAT scan.

After the initial rush, Donahue spoke to press who observed the procedure. The chief of surgery was pleased with the performance of the medics. “It’s quiet,” he said. “That means they are talking and communicating well. Everything went very smoothly.”

Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) William Todd, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, said the 6-year-old could move his hips and did not present symptoms of complications. “He’s a tough little boy,” Todd said. “It’s probably pain from the previous surgery.”

Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Shawn Safford was the general surgeon who examined the young man. “He was very alert,” he said. “He has a slight fever, but we will treat that. We will watch him for a few days to ensure it is going well.”

The boy knows his father’s cell phone number, but not what happened to him, his mother or his brother. “He was scared and was reaching for my hand,” Safford said. “Just holding a kid’s hand is sometimes the best medicine.”

Both Haitian patients are in the Comfort’s intensive care unit.

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Related Sites:
USNS Comfort
USNS Comfort on Twitter
Special Report: Haiti Earthquake Relief

Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Lt. Cmdr. Daniel D’Aurora and Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Bertrand transport the ship’s first Hatian patient, a 6-year-old boy, to casualty receiving for in-processing and care aboard the USNS Comfort, Jan. 19, 2010. Comfort is near the coast of Haiti to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Haiti. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannon Warner  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe first Hatian patient to arrive aboard USNS Comfort enters the hospital ship’s casualty receiving staging area for initial processing and medical care Jan. 19, 2010. The hospital ship contains one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and has the capability to provide a full range of medical services to the battered nation. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Timothy Wilson  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn aircraft from USS Carl Vinson delivers the first two Haitian patients to embark USNS Comfort for medical treatment as the ship navigates close to the coast of Haiti, Jan. 19, 2010. More than 1,200 civilians and sailors aboard Comfort will provide a full spectrum of surgical and medical services. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Edwardo Proano  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam Buzzeo prepares medical equipment during the assessment of a 6-year-old Haitian boy brought aboard the USNS Comfort off the coast of Haiti, Jan. 19, 2010. The boy, who is the Comfort’s first patient as part of Operation Unified Response: Haiti, was injured in the earthquake that rocked the island Jan. 12, 2010.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSailors aboard hospital ship USNS Comfort treat a 6-year-old trauma patient in the ship’s casualty receiving area for pelvic and bladder injuries suffered in a powerful earthquake that devastated the country of Haiti Jan 12. Comfort is deployed in support of Operation Unified Response: Haiti, and contains one of the largest trauma facilities in the U.S. and has the capability to provide a full range of medical services to the battered nation. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Timothy Wilson   
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