Monday, January 18, 2010

Why taxes are worth paying, The coast guard takes care of all

This is an incredible story of people doing their job in the worst possible circumstances with a high degree of professionalism and compassion combined with good sense
. Guardians Report In: HS1 Larry Berman
By clagan ⋅ January 17, 2010 ⋅ Post a comment
Filed Under baby, CGC Mohawk, CGC Tahoma, DC2 Schrewsbury, earthquake, ETC Frownfelter, haiti, HS1 Larry Berman, HS2 Elias Gomez, LCDR Fisher, LT Sanzo, medical clinic, navy, OS1 Sweetman, USS Carl Vinson, YN1 Winslow
The following account comes from Health Services Technician First Class (HS1) Larry Berman. HS1 Berman serves as “ship’s doc” aboard the CGC Tahoma and was one of the first medical responders to the Haiti earthquake. The words that follow are his and we’ve included Coast Guard photos to try and help tell the story. As Guardians continue to report in from Haiti, we will do our best to bring you their stories here at Coast Guard Compass.


HS1 Larry Berman reviews medical supplies for the make-shift Haitian Coast Guard Medical Clinic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Today (Saturday) was day three that the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma and Mohawk manned up the small Haitian Coast Guard Medical Clinic. All three days, we have treated the local Haitian people for broken bones, lacerations, huge open wounds, etc. The outer court yard is filled with desperate people wanting medical attention.

Myself and HS2 Elias Gomez have taken the lead on who gets treated and who has to wait. Both boats are helping in some capacity or another, medical treatment, security, supply room, small boating Coast Guardsmen back and forth from the ships. So, many people from the two boats are helping. Some have to man the daily operations of the two boats, but everyone is eager to volunteer to come ashore and lend a hand.

HS2 Gomez and I, and a couple of people with EMT experience, have training on mass casualty scenarios, but in that situation there are helos and ambulances to take people to hospitals. Not so here. Until today, we have treated the people and they stay. Their homes are wrecked, the streets are clogged, and there have not been any medevacs.

Today, day three, was the first day that we got a few people out; I think the count was 10. The primary goal each day has been to treat and evac those needing amputations. My happiest moment came this morning as one man with a left crushed arm, 30 medical staples and sutures to the face, and a scalp wound was evaced to a hospital. The first day, as triage goes, we thought he was near death so we deferred to stronger amputations who were a mess, but much alive. The following day, when we saw that he was still alive, HS2 Gomez and I decided that he would be our priority. That was yesterday. I scrubbed what was his arm with Betadine, tourniqueted the arm and wrapped it in a red contamination bag. HS2 stapled a huge facial wound with the medical staples and sutures. HS2 Elias Gomez was a master, caring for the patient. I cleaned maggots from his scalp wound and sutured that up. We also hit him up with antibiotics. As I said, today he flew to a hospital. That my friends was an outstanding moment for HS2 and myself.

We have treated more patients than we can count, then they go out to sit in the outer court yard.

The scene includes about 30-40 Coast Guardsmen and about 20 Haitian volunteers with various experience. A couple of Haitian nurses and doctors have joined us, but the leadership of the clinic has been HS2 and myself. I believe that the Haitians have recognized the discipline and order that the Tahoma and Mohawk have demonstrated. OS1 Sweetman, YN1 Winslow and ETC Frownfelter have lead the security for the compound. They keep order. The Mohawk has taken leadership over the supply room. I wish that I could tell you their names, but there is one Chief that has done a great job with the stock room.

Both Mohawk and Tahoma crewmen are willing to do anything. I have seen our Engineering Officer LT Sanzo out in the courtyard bandaging people. I saw our Executive Officer LCDR Fisher hold the hand of a little girl while her wounds were being painfully scrubbed. I was able to come and administer a small amount of morphine to the little girl which made the XO’s job easier.

Today was the first day also that the decision was made to use morphine. The compound fractures and skin ripped off some of their bodies warranted it as we had to clean the infected wounds. Morphine is mercy.

For the past 3 days, Tahoma and Mohawk have had to make hundreds of decisions on how to help these people. We are all exhausted. We are all running on adrenalin. We are working in the heat, sweating. No one goes to the bathroom until be get back to the ship from 0830 to 1715 Hrs. Both Gomez and I have been ordered to take breaks. It is non-stop. Today, I had to ask what day it was. I had no idea. Thank God we are starting to get a few people out. Tomorrow we hope to get at least 12 of the worst out.


A baby is born to a young Haitian woman on the deck of the CGC Tahoma. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Today at about 1430 I finally obeyed our XO and YN1 Winslow to take a break and eat. Then after about 15 minutes I was called on the radio to get back to the clinic. Someone was going to have a baby! I ran from the pier to the courtyard, about 200 yards to see a 21 year old Haitian woman sitting and looking weak with people holding her hand.

She told me that the baby had not moved since that morning. I felt her abdomen and could not feel the baby move. She appeared to be full term. Gomez, who from here on out I will call by his first name, Elias, brought her into the clinic and got her up on a table. We examined her to see if she was crowning which she was not. We could not feel the baby move at all. We both placed stethoscopes on her and could not hear a sound from the baby. As best as we could we were beginning to think the worst, so after we were told that there would not be any more flights out, the command listened to us and got her and one more amputee to the Tahoma for medevac.

A short time later, I was shouted to by OS1 Sweetman to get to the small boat back to the Tahoma, a baby boy was born on the flight deck! What?

As I got in the small boat, a Lieutenant who I had never seen before was in the boat next to me. After 3 days of prayers God sent us a Flight Surgeon. Elias and I and many of our church members have been praying for a surgeon to help us. I apologize, as I write this at 2339 Hrs, after a long day, I can not recall his name.

The crew of the Tahoma delivered the baby. I know that OSC Watkins and DC2 Schrewsbury and about 15 others had parts in the delivery. The Flight Surgeon and I got there and assessed the health of the mother and baby boy. I took the vitals and listened to the baby’s heart. It was making sounds now Elias! Pink, warm and well. The flight Surgeon lead the delivery of the placenta on the flight deck and several of us cleaned the baby after its first BM. Then they were medevaced off the hospital.

To my great joy, the Navy arrived. Two surgeons from the USS Carl Vinson and 3 Medical Corpsmen came to join us. Help has arrived. Tomorrow fresh minds will lead the clinic. To be honest with you, Elias and I could run the clinic for a 4th day, but we are slowing, just a bit, after making all the decisions at the camp involving medical care. I do not think I could pull a day 5.

Tomorrow, Elias and I will be able to perform the way we prefer. The Medical Officers make the tough calls and we follow their lead. Tomorrow we will get a break, I think, and take lesser roles. However, we are told that we are starting earlier. Rather than leave for the clinic at 0830, tomorrow, which comes in 7 minutes, we leave at 0730.

I am writing this to wind down. Everyone on the CGC Tahoma and CGC Mohawk has a story to tell. There are dozens and dozens of stories of brave acts from the crew and the Haitian people. Oh, we all felt the earth shake today. It was a small but noticeable shake.

HS1 Larry J Berman
Independent Health Services Technician
“Ship’s Doc”
USCGC TAHOMA (WMEC-908)
United States Coast Guard\

As a father who has dealt with the third world medical system, I'm so happy for the mother and child. Haiti is certainly a failed country, but the politics of the third world doesn't make a baby less worth saving than my son should he have been in similar circumstances. Lets hope the new century gives him as good of chance of sucess as the circumstances of his birth provided for his survival.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Where Erdene nearly gets away


Erdene has been planning a trip to Ulan Baatar for a month now, but snow storms, a dad with bad wheels, and the lad have interfered. She nearly made it to the train yesterday, but older brother Ankha' wife came down with a serious complication to her pregnancy. Let's hope for the best and the family is rallying around and Erdene' tooth cavity repair and camera fixing will have to wait. Think the medical care on Saipan is dodgy, well, experience Mongolia. She is in hospital and hopefully will recover from what seems to be a reaction to a bad penicillan perscription. We really hope she and the baby come through this ok, but happy to wait and offer prayers and kind thoughts.
Pumpkin is planning to enter day school next week, assuming he passes his communicable disease tests. This will be a huge step for the lad and his mom. His vocal abilities have developed to where he is understood, but he really needs to hang with kids his own age. Winter and the h1n1 have hindered his formal introduction to society. Erdene hopes to spend time with her sewing and a couple of computer classes while he is in school, plus the time away, would sever his un necessary reliance on the breasts which bring so much happpiness to him and pain to his mom. Well, obviously some of his social skills need work.
We both are feeling very sad for Ankha's bride, but strength should prevail, if the bad doctor is taken out of the equation. Imagine, being not only prescribed the wrong medicine, but one which is probably inferior and possibly dangerously below standards as well. Ankha is a wonderful person, a fine uncle, and more than likely to be a perfect dad for his child, so cut them a little slack on this one, please.
UPDATE; Barangbohlt is doing much better in hospital. Swelling is down and the little one with three months to go is in no distress. No idea where the problem started or what if anything made it worse, but looking good.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I have a bad habit,

well several actually, but the one which comes to mind today, is swearing at the on line headlines. I mean really, does the AP really pay people to write this crap? Do they actually read the stories, they are attaching the headlines to? Today, US shuts Yeman embassy. Actually, don't have much to say about this one, other than, State Department in a rather bold excursion from Cloud Cuckoo land, runs away bravely. Next up "amenities of keys motel made for perfect hideout" OK, I'll buy that. Florida is best known for harboring the most criminals on a per capita basis, so they should have decent housing. Note to Florida attorney general, IMPOSE the death penalty much more often. And here is a classic "US believes Iran working on design of nuclear weapon" Do you think so?, Maybe?. Say hello to my little friend, the D5 submarine launched intercontinental ballastic missle. Could save us some trouble down the road and it isn't like our reputation is all that good with the mullahs. Sea of glass, comes to mind, we'll just wait until more of the oil is used up. That is it for now.
UPDATE Iran plans large scale war games. Well, that is good news. Come out and play and meet my little friend. Florida man blames family for ignoring him, so in true Floridian fashion, he killed them. That will teach you. Pass the biscuits please, mom. Florida girl 12, sets mother on fire. Police department spokesperson, describes it as "just a typical case of teenage angst" Really? What is an atypical case of teenage angst in florida? Yikes..