By Joshua St. Aimee -September 29, 2019
It was awesome! No problems. No pain. No strain, and I got a great welcome. Saint Lucians should really take advantage of the services because I’ve never seen something like this!” That was Evan Jn. Baptiste’s happy endorsement as he left the USNS Comfort early Thursday morning. Earlier in the week, Jn. Baptiste had undergone surgery aboard the visiting hospital ship.
He added: “They call it a hospital ship . . . but it’s also a hotel. Everything is nice here. You get your food, they see after you night and day. I came in walking bent over but I’m coming out walking straight. Everybody should come. Bless up the Americans!”
Jn. Baptiste was accompanied by Matthew Butcher, another patient who had an eye operation. Like Jn. Baptiste, Butcher had nothing but high praise for the US medical team. “I’m feeling very good,” he said. “I hope those that haven’t come in as yet will do so. Everyone was so friendly.”
On Thursday, representatives of the local media were given a tour of the ship and the two walk-in clinics at the Owen King European Union Hospital and at the National Cultural Centre. The USNS Comfort’s Director of Nursing Services, Captain Charles Cather, said the ship’s ‘Enduring Promise’ mission is aimed at strengthening partnerships and regional collaboration by providing humanitarian assistance. Saint Lucia is destination number eight for the Comfort.
“Normally, the first question we’re asked is: ‘What can you do to help?’ The second is: ‘When are you coming back?’ So the response is absolutely overwhelming.” The captain said a price tag could not be placed on the care they provide. What’s rewarding, he added, is patients’ faces lighting up with smiles. Providing services, such as cataract surgery which gives sight to the blind, or helping a patient regain their smile and be able to eat again with cleft palate surgery, does just that.
Cather explained that while there is currently no plan to return to the island, it is not altogether out of the picture because “periodically, we send out calls and ask who would like us to come back. We then work out timing, mapping out a route and everything like that.”
Services offered at the two walk-in clinics include eye care, physical therapy, dental, child health, women’s health, internal medicine and pharmacy. The clinics continue today, September 29, and will end on Monday, September 30. The hospital ship is scheduled to leave the island on October 2.