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