Even though our stay in Port-au-Prince was not for the full 10 days, due to the threat of Hurricane Irene, nearly 2,000 patients were treated at the medical sites in Haiti and 79 surgeries were performed in only three days.
Jeff Moomey, an Operating Room Nurse from Missouri, thoroughly enjoyed his first experience volunteering with Project HOPE. “I have volunteered on other health missions off the coast of West Africa and the Dominican Republic,” he says. “I am used to expecting the unexpected and Haiti was no different. From operating room generators giving out, to mission cancellations 40 hours prior to departure, volunteer work requires the ability to remain calm and flexible.”
“Everyone has been great,” Moomey adds, referring to the operating room staff and other medical and support staff aboard the ship.
On one of the last days of surgery for the Continuing Promise 2011 team, a 12-year-old Haitian boy, Nord Ulrick, came in to have his right eyeball removed.
“He came in with his eye practically falling out,” says veteran volunteer Nurse Ellen Fernando, who cared for the boy on the ship.
He cried the entire day when they brought him aboard the USNS Comfort and begged to not have the surgery. He used his eye to beg for money.
He was afraid he could no longer help his family if he had the surgery.
But after the surgery, the translator on the team said the boy was now happy to have the surgery. His eye was healing nicely.
“He’ll never see, but at least he’ll look normal,” says Fernando.
The surgeons onboard will follow up with the discharge planning department to check on his eligibility for a prosthetic eye.
This is only one success story out of hundreds that Project HOPE volunteers and the USNS Comfort medical team accomplished. Partner nations, NGOs and the U.S. military weaved a fabric throughout the throughout the 5-month, nine country Continuing Promise 2011 mission in Latin America to give health opportunities to people everywhere and accomplish the mantra of the mission: people helping people.
As volunteers prepared to the leave the ship, Commodore Brian Nickerson, mission commander of Continuing Promise 2011, praised their work and dedication. “We could not have done this without you,” he says.
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