U.S. Ship Brings Comfort, Care to Quake Victims

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Hundreds of thousands of Haitians still need medical care after the deadly earthquake two weeks ago.

But not all of them are being treated in Haiti. Instead, some are receiving medical care aboard the naval ship, the USNS Comfort.

Working Around the Clock

From the moment they arrived off the coast of Haiti the doctors and nurses aboard the Comfort have been working almost nonstop.

"There's been a lot of stress," the Comfort's Cmdr. Thomas Olivero said. "There a lot people who need our help and we working pretty much around the clock to do that."

Eighty doctors, 24 surgeons and 140 nurses have been working around the clock to help the Haitian people.

"The patients that we are getting are truly, truly, injured and very sick," said Mark Marino, head of nursing.

The injured are brought in by helicopter from the mainland and rushed to the ER onboard.

"I've worked in major trauma centers in the United States. A busy day would be when we get 30 or 35 patients in a 24-hour period. Here, we are getting over a hundred," said Tim Donahue, the Comfort's medical director.

ER Nurse: 'I'm Proud to Serve'

A CBN News crew has been aboard the Comfort since it left port in Baltimore last week. The ship's captain has given CBN's cameras unprecedented access to film as the crew carries out their mission to save as many lives as possible.

"I can't tell you how proud I am to be serving with these people," Comfort ER trauma nurse Dan Darora said. "We are here for the people of Haiti and we are here to represent the American people and to make sure that the people back home don't forget that."

The ship used to be a supertanker back in the 1970s. It was around 1987 that the decision was made to convert the Comfort into a floating hospital. It can, in essence, function as a regular hospital, except that it can't perform transplants.

"We have specialists, we have nursing care, we have an ER, we have an operating room, ICU, we have everything a normal hospital would have," Olivero said.

Ministering to Wounded Spirits

The ship also has three chaplains who minister to crew and patients alike.

"I am limited in my Creole, but I know how to tell them that I'm a chaplain," Command Champlain David Oravec said. "I know how to tell them that God loves them and that we love them."

For earthquake victims like Penal Joseph, being treated aboard the USNS Comfort has meant the difference between life and death.

"This ship has been a God-send to me and many of my people," Joseph said. "So many lives are being saved and I'm grateful for that."

But not everyone can be helped here. Many have died from their injuries.

"I think in a disaster like this it is inevitable," Marino said. "But I'd also like to say that we just had a birth about an hour ago. So we've actually birthed three babies right now. So with death comes life."

The 1,000-bed vessel is expected to be full in the coming days as the Comfort prepares for an open-ended mission to care for Haiti's earthquake victims.

Marino said, "It is all about being a good neighbor and we are working with the Haitian government to be that good neighbor."

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CBN News
George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Sr. Reporter

CBN News is a national/international, nonprofit news organization that provides programming 24 hours a day by cable, satellite and the Internet.