IamA Sailor with over 10 years on board the US Navy's Hospital Ship USNS MERCY. Our sister ship USNS COMFORT is on the way to Puerto Rico to help in relief efforts. AM(almost)A!
Sep 30th 2017 by Navydevildoc • 8 Questions • 228 Points
I have spent the last 10+ years of my life making sure that USNS MERCY is ready to head to sea for Combat Casualty Care, Humanitarian Assistance, or Disaster Relief.
I am an IT expert, former Active Duty Sailor, Amateur Radio Operator, Rugby and Hockey Player, and Land Rover Devotee.
USNS COMFORT left Norfolk, VA today to be a Level One Trauma Center and specialty referral center for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean at large.
Here is USNS MERCY: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/516700/usns-mercy-mission-and-overview-4k
Here is USNS COMFORT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JNNYaINshQ
Here is the New York Times reporting on board the Comfort: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/americas/1247466712758/saving-lives-on-the-u-s-n-s-comfort.html
Mods, I am more than willing to provide proof via a private method, please let me know how.
What happens aboard ship during a storm or heavy seas. Can medical procedures still be conducted?
Another great question!
So when heavy seas hit (and keep in mind, our version of heavy seas may be much worse that you are thinking of) everyone gets inside the skin of the ship and we literally "batten down the hatches".
But, to your question about medical procedures... we would much rather conduct surgery in calm seas. But if we must, the ship is designed so that the 12 operating rooms are aligned along the rotational axis of the ship, to produce the minimum amount of movement.
Elsewhere on board you would find large D-Rings, anchor points, and other means to "secure for sea" with cargo straps and similar gear.
All I could find is that four were built. I'm assuming they were all Jones Act ships, otherwise they'd probably have been built overseas.
From these photos, it looks like she has a new navigational bridge up forward, while still maintaining much of the original superstructure aft. Is that correct?
I think the last question I have, if there weren't any deep enough berths, how would you transfer people to and from shore? I'm guessing you don't carry a fleet of landing craft, although the lifeboats I see in the picture could likely do pretty well.
Thanks for all your answers! I've always admired these ships, sometimes in person, but never really took the time to get to know them.
Man, you really know what to ask!
Yeah, the bridge is now forward, but it used to be back aft. When NASSCO converted the ships they literally chopped off the bridge and moved it forward on to the new superstructure. The bridge is an amalgamate of 1970s tanker and 2010s modern shipping. Where the bridge used to be is now a weather deck that holds the most important piece of equipment, our Armed Forces Network Direct to Sailor dish, which gives us 3 channels: News, Sports, and "AFN Prime" which is a rotation of popular TV shows. The News channel switches each hour between a large selection of sources, you can be watching the PBS news hour that's followed by Cavuto, followed by the CBS Evening news. The AFN crew at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County does a good job of getting us what we want each day.
As far as transferring patients... We have two major options. We can either fly them via helicopter to the flight deck, or we can bring them alongside in our tender boats. The tenders are the same thing used by cruise lines to move passengers to shore excursions, except ours are equipped with wheelchair ramps and the ability to hold NATO standard patient litters. Our claim to fame is that last year we were the first US flagged boats to sail up the Han river in Da Nang in Vietnam since the end of the war. We were there working with the Vietnamese to learn how to work together in a natural disaster.