ABOARD USNS COMFORT NEAR HAITI (WUSA) -- 9NEWS NOW has learned that the first patients to receive care on the USNS Comfort arrived on the ship Tuesday tonight. Initially, the crew was told during a briefing to expect their first patients Wednesday morning. About an hour after that briefing, the general alert went up and the crew was told that there were inbound helicopters with critically ill children onboard from Haiti.
SCENES ABOARD THE USNS COMFORT
Among the first patients to arrive on the Comfort were a 20-year old man with serious head and spinal injuries, and a 6-year old boy who has a crushed pelvis. The ship is not expected to drop anchor yet, but the doctors on the USS Carl Vinson felt that the patients were in such bad condition that they needed to get to the Comfort immediately.
As the 6-year old boy was receiving treatment, the boy told a Creole speaking crew member that he didn't know where his parents were. The boy hadn't seen them, but at the age of 6 and in critical condition, he was able to give a cell phone number for his parents. The boy likely has not seen his parents since the earthquake. One of the doctors said that while the boy may not know where his parents are, but he's got a whole shipload of people who care for him just like any other parent would.
The 20-year old man was wheeled away to receive a CAT scan, one of the services that the aircraft carriers and field hospitals are unable to provide.
The ship will arrive in Haiti overnight and will launch the first medevac helicopters at dawn on Wednesday, shaving a full day off the predicted arrival time. The Comfort cannot come fast enough for the people of Haiti.
The situation Tuesday night is that field hospitals on the ground from many nations and medical facilities at sea simply cannot handle the patients they have. Only the Comfort has the advanced trauma and surgical capabilities that has so badly been needed since the earthquake.
The crew is expecting seven more patients to be transferred by helicopter from the Carrier Carl Vinson at about 7:30 Wednesday morning, along with CNN doctor Sanjay Gupta, who is treating a severely injured girl he encountered while reporting in Port-au-Prince. By noon, they are expecting the floodgates to open. The medical director on the Comfort is telling everyone to be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. Captain James Ware says lives and careers will be changed, and to expect stress similar to combat.
"The whole world is watching." That was the message from Captain Ware to his 780 doctors, nurses, and support staff on board during a briefing Tuesday night.
The medical staff includes Doctor Mill Entienne, a neurologist form Bethesda Naval Hospital, born in Haiti, and now coming to his birthplace as a US Navy doctor to save lives.
Hundreds of the staffers aboard from the Comfort are from the DC area. Their mood is serious, eager, anxious, and ready. The opportunity that they have been preparing for, to help save lives after a horrific natural disaster, is upon them.
Written by Tom Hunsicker; Reported by Scott Broom
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