Health care workers board Naval ship to Haiti

January 19, 2010 2:48:47 PM PST
Medical professionals are desperately needed in Haiti to aid those who survived last week's earthquake.A humanitarian group from the Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago shipped out for the earthquake zone Tuesday. Prior to their departure, however, they met for a pre-deployment briefing at the base.

"Do not worry about your families. We have people here for them. Go out there, do your mission, take care of each other and yourselves," said Captain Susan Lichtenstein of the Naval hospital Great Lakes.

" I am nervous, scared not knowing, just worried," said volunteer Heather Hunnery.

"This is our last goodbye, and I do not know how long it is going to be. It's difficult," said Jeremy Logston, Hunnery's husband.

The medical personnel will be based on the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship that has 1,000 beds and is expected to arrive in Haiti Tuesday.

The team includes physicians and nurses, as well as enlisted hospital corpsmen and operating room technicians.

Medical technician Edwin Edmondson says nothing prepares you to walk into a natural disaster. It is different from a war zone.

"In a war zone, you expect casualties. Here we are going to working on kids, seniors and women. It is a different mind set," said Edmondson.

Hospital Corpsman Second Class and medical technician Timothy Baker served in Iraq in 2007 and 2008.

"This is very different from combat," Baker said. "We're expecting lots of trauma injuries, lots of crush injuries. That's what we're expecting."

The sailors waited to board buses to O'Hare Tuesday before flying to Jacksonville on a commercial flight, and then to Haiti. Their deployment is open-ended, which means they do not know when they are coming home. That is difficult for their families.

The USNS Comfort has state-of-the art technology and is equipped with 12 operating rooms, trauma beds, and the capability to board by helicopter.

The U.S. Navy has other combatant ships in Haiti that also have medical capabilities and the ability to generate safe water.