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USNS Comfort Prepares For Haiti Mission

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By Rebecca Sheir

The U.S. Navy Ship Comfort, based in Baltimore, will join other American vessels headed to Haiti. When it arrives it will be the only floating hospital there.

Ask Lieutenant Commander Thomas Olivero, who oversees the ship's operating room, what he expects to see in Haiti, and he'll be frank.

"I really don't know," he says, "but I can plan for the worst."

And what's the worst?

"The most complicated trauma patients you can think of: burn patients, crush injuries, fractures, head injuries," says Olivero.

"And then you think on the medicine side: dehydration, malnutrition. Especially the little kids - they're not eating, they're not drinking," he says. "They're gonna have problems."

And that's where the nearly 900-foot Comfort comes in. Chris Walz, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy, says they're loading the ship with supplies.

"We need to make sure we have blood, we have sutures, we have splints," he says. "So when we go down there we're gonna be the hospital. And that's what we need to make sure that our mission is."

The Comfort's crew is preparing 250 beds, four operating rooms and eight intensive care units. Olivero says it's the ship's largest humanitarian mission in 20 years.

"You're talking about a lot of people that are coming on board: 5,600 staff members at once. This is big. It's gonna be huge," he says.

The Navy expects the Comfort to arrive in Haiti by next Friday.

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