US Navy officials announced that the hospital ship Comfort would arrive at its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, between 10:30 a.m. and noon on Dec. 21, 2022, capping a two-month mercy mission to Central and South America, plus the Caribbean Sea. US Navy photo.
Despite a craning calamity that tumbled 19 passengers into the Caribbean Sea, Navy leaders are proclaiming the success of Continuing Promise, a two-month mercy mission led by the hospital ship Comfort.
The vessel’s commanders announced that Comfort will enter its Virginia homeport in Norfolk around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 21, four days before Christmas.
Comfort’s arrival caps a cruise that called on Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, treating more than 13,000 patients and conducting five humanitarian assistance and disaster relief workshops with local officials.
The only blemish on an otherwise stellar tour happened Dec. 12, at 7:17 p.m. local time near Haiti’s Wharf de Jérémie, when a small boat ferrying 12 civilians and seven military members flipped while being craned aboard the hospital ship in rough waves.
"I am so delighted to have shared this remarkable experience with the men and women of the Continuing Promise 2022 team," said Capt. Kathryn Elliott, commanding officer of the hospital ship’s medical treatment facility, in a prepared statement. "We overcame adversity to provide medical care to the community in these host nations. Along the way we learned so much from our partners. The exchange of information that took place was vital to building upon our long-lasting relationships with the countries of this region. This is Comfort’s mission and a true continuing promise."
US Navy Capt. Michael Weaver, ground force commander for Continuing Promise 2022 in Haiti, hands a soccer ball to a youngster in Jérémie, Haiti, Dec. 17, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Deven Fernandez.
Since its maiden voyage in 2007, the dozen Continuing Promise missions have treated more than 595,000 patients and conducted over 7,250 surgeries in the Caribbean, Central, and South American regions.
The most recent deployment brought together US service members and military health care experts from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. They were joined by volunteers from a dozen nongovernmental organizations.
They called first on the Guatemalan port of Puerto Barrios.
According to the Navy, from Oct. 26 to Halloween, the medical team filled 2,957 prescriptions and conducted 44 surgeries, including a procedure that restored the full use of hands for one patient. They also brought pediatric cardiology care to a city that can’t provide it.
The next day, Comfort steamed to Puerto Cortes, Honduras. For the next week, the medical team filled 3,350 prescriptions, conducted 23 surgeries, and refurbished a local school.
Lt. Cmdr. Kyle McDonald, from Frankenmuth, Michigan, examines a patient during Continuing Promise 2022 in Jérémie, Haiti, on Dec. 16, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sophia Simons.
On Veterans Day, Comfort arrived in Cartagena, Colombia, starting a nine-day stay that conducted 143 surgeries; filled 7,012 prescriptions; and revamped another school.
On Nov. 27, Comfort called on Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where surgeons performed 87 operations.
The medical team filled 7,446 prescriptions; provided physical therapy to 137 patients; and took 209 X-rays and 78 ultrasounds.
Comfort anchored off Haiti on Dec. 11 and began shuttling health care providers to Jérémie.
By Dec. 17, they had treated 1,035 patients; filled 14,012 prescriptions; and unloaded 55 pallets of medical supplies and donated goods.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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