Haiti: Onboard the USNS COMFORT–Pt I

As you may know, K¹² has students at the Union School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the outpouring of concern for these students and everyone here impacted by the terrible earthquake has been overwhelming. I wanted to share with K¹² families and friends some of my experiences here, as both a K¹² employee and a Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve who has been deployed to the region.

I was asked to join the team aboard USNS COMFORT, the Navy hospital ship that rushed to Port-au-Prince to serve as the only “Level 3” medical facility in the vicinity capable of handling complex surgical and medical emergencies. COMFORT’s core crew of about 80 was augmented with over 1,300 doctors, nurses, medical providers, translators, and other crewmembers, including members of all service branches, volunteers from the Red Cross, Project Hope, and many other non-profit relief agencies.

As a Navy logistician, I help manage the flow of equipment, medical supplies, drugs, blood, etc needed by COMFORT’s medical team to save lives. I’m glad to be a part of this effort, and I’ve been humbled by what I’ve witnessed in a relatively short time.

The doctors, nurses, and other medical care providers are, quite simply, heroic. Literally working around the clock, they’ve conducted thousands of medical and surgical procedures non-stop. They’ve saved countless lives, prevented hundreds of amputations, and delivered a dozen babies. They’ve seen all kinds of patients, from newborns to the elderly, with every possible combination of broken bones, damaged organs, crushed spines, and cranial/brain trauma.

They are amazing professionals, who have gone through a very traumatic experience themselves. Many of the military medical professionals have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the volunteer doctors and nurses have worked around the world and in major metropolitan hospitals. To a person, they all agree that, by far, this has been the highest value, fastest paced, most challenging, and yet satisfying mission in their lives.

The generosity and concern for K¹²’s students here and for all of the people of Haiti are making a huge difference. I’ve seen the gratitude in the eyes of COMFORT’s patients and in the smiles of children on the streets of Port au Prince. I’m also grateful for K¹²’s unhesitating support for my deployment here. But I am most inspired by the Haitian people, who have endured this epic disaster on top of the crushing poverty they’ve lived with their entire lives. I will be sharing some of their stories and providing periodic updates on our efforts here, so please check back here on the thinktank12 blog often.

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