Comfort Sailors Teach Critical Skills at Haitian Medical Facility

Story Number: NNS100222-01Release Date: 2/22/2010 7:35:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chelsea Kennedy

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (NNS) -- Sailors embarked on the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) provided physical therapy assistance and subject-matter expert advice to medical staff members at St. Damien Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Feb. 19.

Comfort also visited the hospital to assess the medical needs of the facility and to assist recovering victims suffering from injuries resulting from last month's earthquake.

"We started sending people ashore when the need [for physical therapy] on board the ship decreased," said Cmdr. Deborah Carr, the physical therapy division officer aboard Comfort.

She went on to say that if those who have received treatment don't perform physical therapy "The joints can freeze to the point where a person will not have a functional range of motion in their joints."

In addition to working with the patients at the hospital, Comfort Sailors shared their valuable knowledge with the hospital staff and clinic workers.

"The Sailors are doing a little bit of [physical therapy] work with patients," Carr said. "They are also working with some of the civilian facilities to help them learn things that they can do to help."

Many of the doctors, technicians and nurses working at the after care facilities do not have personnel specialized in providing physical therapy.

"We're not going to be able to turn them all into physical therapy technicians," Carr said. "Using every little tool they have in the tool box to help the patients is a good thing."

Without the knowledge that these Sailors are providing, many of the patients would not understand what is required of them to maintain their mobility for the future.

"We gave handouts for the exercises that they need to maintain or improve their strength, or amputation care for those who have lost limbs," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class James Abbington. "We are teaching patients to help themselves by showing them how to wrap their own amputations and check for infections."

Physical therapy is a key factor in the recovery process for orthopedic and amputation surgeries. It ensures that patients do not get atrophy from sitting or lying down for extended periods of time.

"Most of them just need to start walking again so they can function in everyday life," Abbington said.

With proper physical therapy techniques patients can shorten their recovery time dramatically, have much better muscle function, and live life with a greater sense of normality.

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