Wow! What a difference a week makes! One week ago, my wife and I were still enjoying our RV trip to Florida to visit our Son, Daughter-in-Law, and Grandson. Last Tuesday, we got home from our trip about one hour after the earthquake struck in Haiti. As the first reports started to come in, it quickly became apparent that this was a disaster of epic proportions and that there was no one more capable and ready to respond than the crew of the Mighty USNS COMFORT!!
If you're new to this blog, I encourage you to take a few minutes and look back at the posts that were made during our recent deployment to Haiti and six other Central and South American countries from March to August 2009. We visited Haiti in April.
Three and a half days after the earthquake, two and a half days after our activation, COMFORT was underway enroute to help in the relief effort.
I wish that I had the energy to relate all that took place to make that happen. But quite frankly, I'm too tired, and it was too much to possibly give all the credit to where it was due. The day of the earthquake, our ship was not only in it's reduced operating status (normally ready to deploy in five days), but we had construction going on on the ship with major renovations to our sanitation systems and electrical systems still under way. We had a new CT scanner that had just been installed and an Angio suite that is half installed. Several of our key crew members were on leave and due to the construction, all of our blood had been transferred to Bethesda.
Two and a half days after activation, the ship put to sea with a medical staff of over 500 people, a security detachment, an air detachment, 84 civilian mariners, a Public Affairs shop, imbedded media, representatives from USAID, a logistics specialist, and I can't even think of the rest!
During the three days of our transit to Haiti we have not only pulled together our team, but have developed plans that include the expansion of the Hospital to levels that have never been done before. With an influx of over 450 additional medical and translator persoonel, we will be ready to fill every patient bed on the ship, run every available operating room, fill every one of our 80 intensive care beds, and do everything within our power to ease the suffering of the people of Haiti.
Tonight was our last night to get a good night's sleep before the crush begins. At our 1900 confirmation brief (7:00pm) we told everyone to get to bed early and get a good night's sleep in preparation for our arriving at anchorage off of Port-au-Prince tomorrow morning.
Then the phone rang. It was the aircraft carrier USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70). And at 9:00pm we got word that our first patients were on the way: Two children, one with a head injury and one with a pelvic injury, both needing immediate surgery.
So as I write this first entry, we are waiting for the helicopter to arrive with these first of what will no doubt be thousands of patients. Our team is ready. Our ship is ready. May God grant us the strength to do what needs to be done.