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PUERTO BARRIOS, Guatemala - It was another humid day in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, and there was the smell of a rainstorm brewing in the air. The light beige and aged building of the Japan-Guatemala Friendship Hospital became more prominent as Chief Hospital Corpsman Shawn Burnette, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Rolly Domingo, from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, passed the front gate and arrived at the entrance to the hospital. They walked down the dimly lit hallways, hearing the echoes of footsteps as staff members crossed their paths while entering and leaving rooms.
After passing a few wards and entering the maintenance room, the team met with the hospital maintenance team. Burnette and Domingo began asking questions about the hospital’s biomedical (biomed) equipment and how the team performed maintenance. The questioning faces of the hospital maintenance personnel caused the Comfort team to quickly realize that the staff had partial knowledge of their biomedical equipment. Burnette and Domingo were going to have their norms challenged and eyes opened to new ways of doing their job.
Every foundation has a cornerstone, the first piece that creates stability to build upon. Day one was that cornerstone. The Comfort duo started at the beginning and aimed to teach the maintenance team how to fix equipment, while keeping a consistent schedule of preventative maintenance.
Continuing Promise 2022 aims to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South America. To further that mission, biomed technicians, assigned to the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), started their first information exchange with those working at the Japan-Guatemala Friendship Hospital.
“I had the U.S. standard thinking process going into this, because this is my first humanitarian engagement, especially a sidebyside,” said Burnette. “So, day one I had the mindset of, order the part, wait for the part and put the part in. These countries don’t have that luxury nor do they have the time to wait. On the spot means get it up and running, and that is what we did. Whatever you can do to make it work is what they are looking for in the hospital to ensure the patient care continues to flow effectively. Getting in that mindset during these humanitarian missions is vital.”
After a long day of evaluating medical equipment, Darwin Arana, the maintenance supervisor from Puerto Barrios, was excited to teach the biomed team about his area of expertise. Arana took Burnette and Domingo outside the hospital building, it just finished raining so the tall grass was laced with little droplets of rain, and as the group moved to an air conditioning unit the droplets moved from the grass to the duo’s black steel toe boots. Arana displayed the A/C unit, which was cooling an empty ward room, and started showcasing his expertise. He began to pull out meters and tools to test for leaks in the unit. Arana’s knowledge of heat, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units benefitted the biomed team, and Burnette and Domingo were amazed with the wealth of knowledge they learned from the subject matter expert.
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