PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Aug. 18, for its final stop of Continuing Promise 2011 (CP11).
Comfort and the CP11 mission began in English-speaking Jamaica in April, followed by seven working port visits to the Spanish-speaking nations of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru. To date, Comfort personnel triaged 63,805 patients and performed 1,029 surgeries.
Haiti's Creole-French language, coupled with the after-effects of an earthquake approximately a year and a half ago, will produce unique challenges for the mission team.
"The challenges that we're looking at right now are still the same principles that we've used in all our other eight countries and that is to screen our patients so that we are able to do a prescribed surgery in the short time frame," said Capt. William Todd, USNS Comfort director of surgical services. "We'll be here over nine operative days [and] to do it safely so that the patients leave the USNS Comfort in a better position than when they entered."
According to Todd, some post-earthquake induced ailments that CP11 staffers may encounter are infected residual limbs, infected wounds, and many mal-unions within bones, which are bones that have healed in unacceptable positions.
"I have mixed feelings as to what we will see. I understand that a lot of donations were made, so I'm hoping there are some improvements and some changes," said Lt. j.g. Djenane Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian-born nurse working in a post-operation ward aboard Comfort. She also participated in the earthquake disaster relief efforts in 2010. "I'm a little nervous to see the desperation of the people, but it is good to see where I came from. Haiti is a very spiritual nation. They're very good people. These are people that have suffered for a very long time. It's a suffering that we have not seen and that a lot of Americans will never experience."
While the crew understands that the Haiti mission stop will be a complex one, they are looking forward to finishing Continuing Promise with the same enthusiasm that they have carried throughout the mission.
"We all feel that this is probably going to be one of the most challenging stops and we want to finish very, very strong here," added Todd. "This is going to be a fantastic opportunity to really help some people that have been through some very desperate times."
Comfort is deployed in support of CP11, a five-month humanitarian assistance mission to the Caribbean, Central and South America. This is the sixth humanitarian-focused naval deployment to the region since 2007, designed to promote partnerships and goodwill.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central, and South American regions.
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