USS CARL VINSON, At sea (NNS) -- Noted neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Los Angeles Pediatric Hospital's Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Henri Ford assisted USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) medical team in emergency surgery to remove concrete debris from a 12-year old Haitian girl's skull Jan. 18.
Ship's Surgeon, Lt. Cmdr (Dr.) Kathryn Berndt diagnosed the girl as having a 1.2 cm piece of concrete embedded in her skull which was removed the night she arrived. During the post-operation debrief, Berndt requested a neurosurgical consult. One well-known neurosurgeon in the region came to mind.
"Our senior medical officer, Doctor (Alfred) Shwayhat, told me about the situation and asked if I could track down Dr. Gupta," said Carl Vinson's Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Lt. j.g. Erik Schneider. "With the help of a CNN producer, we called CNN in Atlanta who then patched us through to Doctor Gupta in Port-au-Prince."
"Someone got a hold of our international desk which is our world headquarters which we're in touch with every hour," said Gupta. "They said there was an urgent call from the Carl Vinson. So I put a call in to them and there was something about a head injury. I initially spoke to Doctor Berndt and she explained the situation."
"It was literally, 'Paging Dr. Gupta off the coast of Haiti from the USS Carl Vinson,'" said Shwayhat.
Following further consultation, a second surgery was deemed necessary. After the medical team irrigated the injury and provided the initial care, Berndt's team, assisted by Gupta and Ford, scrubbed in.
"There was a one-and-a-half centimeter by two centimeter piece of debris that was broken into smaller pieces," Ford said. "There was one piece to which we weren't able to access initially. She was neurologically intact and there wasn't any penetration of the brain."
Gupta and Ford anticipate the girl making a full recovery, "though she will need some antibiotics," Ford said.
"This has been the most remarkable occasion," said Ford, who is originally from Haiti. "It has been the most moving experience being a part of those so motivated in the face of this tragedy. As a pediatric surgeon, it is a great honor to experience the dedication of the American government and the quality of care the ship's medical team provided. The display of humanity and support is truly without parallel."
"I was honored to help out," said Gupta. "I have a profound respect for the capabilities of the U.S. Navy and the medical team on board the Carl Vinson."
Carl Vinson and Carrier Air Wing 17 are conducting humanitarian and disaster relief operations as part of Operation Unified Relief after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake cause severe damage near Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.