Welcome Home Mercy!

CNN.com – Hospital ship back from tsunami region – Jun 9, 2005.

SAN DIEGO, California (AP) — The hospital ship USNS Mercy returned home from Indonesia after treating thousands who survived the tsunami in December and thousands more who survived an earthquake in March.

The floating medical center and 270 crew members docked Wednesday at Naval Station San Diego to the cheers of families waving signs and balloons. The ship left port on Jan. 5.

"If you haven’t cried on this mission, you haven’t been on this mission," said Capt. Mark Llewellyn, repeating what he told his staff several times during the mission.

Arriving in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in February, the Mercy’s advanced treatment facilities filled a desperate need. The tsunami, caused by a December 26 earthquake, killed more than 176,000 people in 11 countries and left about 50,000 missing and hundreds of thousands homeless.

The first 10 days of the mission, the Mercy’s first deployment since the Persian Gulf War more than a decade ago, saw nonstop orthopedic surgeries on injuries that had gone untreated for 11/2 months. By March, the military and civilian medical staff had treated 9,500 survivors.

"We saw a resiliency in those people that was hard to imagine," said Llewellyn, who ran the ship’s 1,000-bed hospital.


Bravo Zulu
to the USNS Mercy!

A Day When I Love my Job

Every once in a while I have one of those rejuvenating, terrific shifts that makes me glad I’m an Emergency Physician.  Tonight was one of those, and I needed it.

My very first patient, who I saw before I even got my shoe covers on, was a massively injured man involved in an MVA.  Open leg fracture, tubed on the scene, helo crew report no BP but a pulse of about 130 until they landed.

In the ED, no pulse upon arrival, so CPR started and blood squished in as fast as the Level 1 would squeeze.   CXR was normal, leg splinted, and a pulse returned, pretty much simultaneously.  Patient emergently to OR for laparotomy.  More later.

Literally my second patient was a (very) senior who had yet another of his syncopal episodes, which resulted in a face plant.  Unfortunately, it also came with the inability to move his arms (but not his legs) per the sending hospital (the patient was a transfer).  By the time he got to me (not on a SoluMedrol drip) his movement and sensation were back to normal.  However, we’ve had odder transfers, so a repeat CT was ordered to confirm whether a fracture exists (arrived with paper printouts of his CT’s), and an MRI to look at the spinal cord of the neck to look for damage there.  Oh, and this poor fellow with recurrent syncope has an artificial heart valve, so his INR is >4.  Goody.  More to follow.

My third very sick patient was in an MVA, and the helo crew said ‘we don’t know driver or passenger, we don’t know ejected or not; intubated on scene, no drugs, but ‘Tachy‘; has a BP on arrival.  Obvious limb fracture.  Fluids given, initial CXR shows all but the third rib broken on one side, bilateral scapular fractures, C2/3/4 fracture, astonishing pelvic fracture with bladder injury due to the markedly displaced acetabular fracture.  Bilateral chest tubes, fluids, and off to the scanner.

The next patient to come in was cared for by a colleague, and also had a c-spine fracture.  So, at one time there were three patients in our ED with c-spine fractures.  The neurosurgeon was busy, to say the least.

Patient One had an emergency laparotomy, which was grossly negative per the surgeon.  Apparently lost his blood volume through the leg fracture.

Patient Two had fractures of C6 on the CT, and the MRI shows no cord injury, but does show both the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments are ruptured.  (Those provide the stability of the spine on motion; when torn, the inherent stability of the spine is gone).  Off to the neuro ICU.

Patient three has a huge liver fracture in addition to the other injuries, and is off to the trauma ICU.

In the first two hours of my shift I’ve done more acute-care medicine than in a literal month of shifts, and it feels good.  Occasionally I wonder about my career path, and today is one of the days I’m glad I’m an Emergency Physician.