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Seriously Injured from Haiti Quake Continue to Arrive Aboard Seaborne Hospital 'Comfort'

Medical professionals aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) treat a six-year-old Haitian boy in the casualty receiving room aboard the 1,000-bed hospital ship.
Medical professionals aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) treat a six-year-old Haitian boy in the casualty receiving room aboard the 1,000-bed hospital ship.

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David Dyar

Hundreds of victims of the Haiti earthquake have been treated aboard the US Navy Ship Comfort, anchored off Port-au-Prince.  The patient load is lighter now, but doctors say patients continue to arrive, needing surgery and other care. The ship's medical staff says the medical disaster has been unprecedented.

Doctors on the "Comfort" have performed more than 650 surgeries, in many cases saving patients who would have otherwise died.

One premature baby was born on board the ship. Both baby and mother are doing fine.

Military doctors and civilian volunteers from American hospitals say they have never seen such a large number of severe injuries.

Commander Robert Fetherston is clinical coordinator of the ship's operating room. "Amputations, femur fractures, pelvic fractures, facial fractures, all kinds of fractures, fractures that none of us have never seen before," he said.

This woman's baby was saved after its head was partly crushed during the quake.

The ship's pediatric ward has up to 60 patients and nearly as many parents and escorts.

Medical workers say they have seen miracles here, but John Keeve, an orthopedic surgeon from Washington state, says many patients will lack the extended after-care later on. "And I guess we have to temper our enthusiasm, understanding that these people come from impoverished surroundings and can't necessarily get the treatment that they would normally get in the United States," he said.

But parents say they are thrilled to see their children recover, and staff members of the Comfort are pleased to be part of the international effort to help Haiti.  

Lieutenant Commander John Hussey is in charge of the ship's blood bank and lab. "This was something that was unexpected, but as time has gone on, I think that the staff on board the ship has really felt honored to be a part of something and give something back, especially to the Haitian people in this time of need," he said.

As new patients reach the Comfort, others are sent to hospitals on shore, to make room for the critically injured who need major surgery or other treatment on board.

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