Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 7: It's Only Been a Week?

It's hard to believe on one hand that we have only been here a week, and on the other hand that we've already been here a week. I have never been involved in anything where the days have blended together like this mission.

As of today we now have over 400 patients aboard, 35 of them in Intensive Care, with 14 of them on ventilators. The patients on the ward are all what we call "high acuity" patients. Our nurses are stretched to the limit and are doing amazing things to help their patients.

One of the issues for this ship is that half of our 850 ward beds are upper bunks, designed to provide space for slightly wounded or injured patients who can climb up a ladder to reach the rack. Well, anyone who is well enough to climb up to the top bunk doesn't belong on COMFORT, so using those beds has been difficult.

But, the nursing staff is not about to be overcome by such trivial challenges! Most people wouldn't consider a pelvic fracture patient as a suitable candidate for an upper bunk. But, if you pick them up with a scoop stretcher, lift them up to the top rack and place them in the bed, well there you go! One more lower bed for patients who need it.

We have brought patients onboard faster than we can take them to surgery, so we have quite a few patients still waiting to go to the operating room. The last estimate I heard was that we could operate non-stop for three weeks to take care of just the patients we have onboard now. But instead of that, we're working to get more surgeons and nurses and Hospital Corpsmen here so that we can expand our Orthopedic surgery capability and take care of as many as possible.

We've started discharging some of our patients now. At least 50 or so have been able to go home, and we expect more each day. We are working on identifying places where our patients who are recovering, but aren't ready to go home yet, can go so that we can free up more capacity for those who haven't yet been able to get care.

It has been great to be on the receiving end of all the help that has been coming our way from back home. We have had people jumping through some amazing hoops to get us the blood, medical supplies, and equipment we need to keep going. A lot of people have asked if they can send things to the ship for our patients, and I would ask that people not do that. First of all, we have lots of bears and toys that we brought with us when we came, plus we haven't even started to receive mail yet, so I have no idea how long it would take for any packages to arrive. I'm sure that there are organizations in the States who could work with people wanting to donate to the people of Haiti to distribute those kinds of things after the initial emergency is over.

Well, that's all I have time for today. It has been such an honor to be involved with the people who are working so hard to do so much for so many. It hasn't been easy and the toll on our people is substantial. It's very hard to put so much of yourself into this effort and realize that it is just a drop in the bucket compared to the need. It reminds me of the story of the old man and his grandson who were walking down a beach that was littered with starfish left exposed by the retreating tide. As the boy picked up a starfish and threw it back into the sea, his Grandfater said, "There are so many! You can't possibly makd a difference!" The boy looked at his Grandfather and said, "I made a difference for that one!" Well, we can't make a difference for everyone in Haiti, but we are making a difference for some.

Got to run.

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