PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (NNS) -- A medical team assigned to the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) performed their first mobile interventional radiology (IR) procedure at a medical site established at the Admiral Killick Coast Guard Station during Continuing Promise 2015 (CP-15), Sept. 12.
Lt. Cmdr. Chad Baarson, an interventional radiologist assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, received a 17-year-old patient at the medical site whose pelvis had been crushed in the 2010 earthquake, and was experiencing latent complications due to a blocked catheter.
"Her doctor in town was unable to help her, so he sent her to us," said Baarson. "It would have been an easy fix had we brought her on the ship, but we had already completed our surgical screenings for Haiti."
IR is an independent medical specialty that uses minimally invasive, image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat diseases in nearly every organ system in the body. Baarson uses the IR suite aboard Comfort to perform surgeries on patients who are able to visit the ship. Otherwise, he and his team assist other medical specialties at the medical sites established ashore by providing x-rays.
Baarson said the patient was in pain due to an infected bladder. He decided to create an operating environment at the medical site to help the patient and selected a member of his team, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael Sien, assigned to Boone Branch Health Clinic Little Creek, Virginia, to assist him.
"We had never mobilized an IR procedure before, but it was the only way to provide the relief the patient needed in a timely manner," said Sien.
Baarson and Sien rode a tender back to the ship, gathered the materials they would need to operate, and returned to the medical site in under an hour to set up an operating room environment at the medical site.
The six-Sailor IR team used an x-ray machine to take still images of the patient's bladder. These images allowed the team to see where the new catheter was going while conducting a minimally-invasive procedure.
"In an operating room, we'd be using an x-ray machine in real time," Baarson said. "But here, we had to rely on touch and experience."
After the team replaced the catheter the patient experienced immediate relief, making the first IR procedure performed at a medical site a success.
"We made a huge difference for this patient," Baarson said. "We came up with a solution when there was no other option."
The young woman is one of more than 120,000 patients who have received care during the CP-15 mission thus far. Comfort is currently anchored off the coast of Port au Prince, Haiti, her eleventh and final mission stop. Comfort has also provided care in Belize, Guatemala, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic and Honduras.
Continuing Promise is a U.S. Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian-civil assistance, subject matter expert exchanges, medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support and disaster response to partner nations and to show the United States' continued support and commitment to Central and South America and the Caribbean.
For more news from Continuing Promise, visit www.navy.mil/local/cp/.