CRNA Volunteer Ronald Wegner, CRNA, ARNP

Project HOPE

USNS Comfort off Coast of Port-au-Prince
February 8-22, 2010

Please note:
Patients' faces have been concealed on this page in order to protect their privacy.
We were anchored off shore. I believe we did 815 major cases in four weeks. We took many patients from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the field. We had specialty orthopedic trauma surgeons with us and did many crushed backs, legs, and arms. We also had plastic surgeons and neurosurgeons. We had a heliport on the deck and could take patients from the field quickly. I think the field hospitals utilized us well, and we routinely went out to see if we could support them. We were fortunate to have a great blood supply; excellent anesthesia machines; and endless oxygen and nitrous oxide. We were capable of running 11 operating rooms, (four at night). We also had a 50/50 ratio of physicians and CRNAs. Both physicians and CRNAs worked independently. The patients were very low on hemoglobin and hematocrit (H and H) by the time they arrived. We had a great intensive care unit (ICU), and were capable of taking on 1,000 patients! Most of the anesthesia providers were there either through Project Hope or the military.
The USNS Comfort
View of the USNS Comfort.

Ronald Wegner, CRNA, ARNP, with a Young Patient and his Father

Ronald Wegner, CRNA and a young patient accompanied by his father

"I put him to sleep numerous times for the amputations of his right arm and right leg, his fractured left ankle, and facial injuries. He was the poster boy for smiles and attitude on the ship...he never complained."


Our Heros: Haiti
The following was written by Ronald for the Florida Association
of Nurse Anesthetists Newsletter, FANA Update
I sat down this evening to write an article for the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists Newsletter, FANA Update. I thought about highlighting CRNAs who participated in the onsite disaster relief and what they contributed. Instead, I decided to take a different approach and highlight some of the behind-the-scenes feelings and contributions that everyone can relate to. None of these are less heroic than the things we who traveled saw and felt.
First, for every CRNA that traveled, someone had to pick up their call nights at work. Families had to suddenly be without that individual.
All of you know what doing crushed backs, crushed arms, and trauma is all about. You don't need a picture of an operating room. What you don't see are the emotions of children having surgery without parents or loved ones waiting for them; parents undergoing horrific surgery knowing that their children and family members have died; those who have gone from living in the most deplorable conditions to suddenly being helicoptered to a ship two miles offshore, or transported to a field hospital, but they can't speak English, they know no one, and are in severe pain.
The probem for the CRNAs is not the lack of paperwork (none), lack of blood work (none), lack of histories (none), lack of operative permits (rare), full stomachs (mostly), severe blood loss (mostly), infections from lying in the streets for days (mostly), maggots in wounds (a lot), lack of equipment (a lot), reusing equipment (necessary at times), lack of drugs (at times), unknown postoperative environment (usually if any), sweating 24 hours-a-day (always), same underwear for days (probably), no showers (probably), shared bathrooms (always), no communication to home (rarely), and guys with guns and rifles around (always). All this is minor compared to the Haitians, who never asked for this event to happen to them.
What is remarkable, is the super human effort all the CRNAs make in working around the clock, under the conditions I've described above. What is remarkable, is the tremendous amount of compassion the CRNAs show to the patients. What is remarkable, and may be lost on the people back home, can be summed-up in the following quote by a CRNA, who I worked with night and day.

"I turned and walked away wiping back my tears. This experience has changed many lives. Feeling the devastation, witnessing the strength and courage to move on, and seeing the hope and faith in the faces of so many children, young adults, and seniors, will remain with me and other staff for years to come.
We will think about this before we ever complain over trivial matters. I know that we made a difference in so many lives and brought many smiles to faces of despair. Only God knows what is ahead; it is what it is, but I bet somewhere, there will be a smile because of what we did."
-- Capt Lynda Walters, CRNA

For all of you at FANA, we — all of us who had the opportunity to serve — thank you for your support and well wishes. I hope that someday you will get a chance to participate in the miracle of giving and compassion that unfortunately, a disaster like this provides.
"If you ask, "Am I qualified to do this?" Ask yourself, "Am I qualified to cry?"
Ron Wegner, CRNA, ARNP

Femoral Block on the USNS Comfort

Military CRNAs Doing a Femoral Block
These were so important due to the high numbers of amputees, and patients with crush wounds.
CDR Paul Cornett, CRNA, is performing a femoral block on an orthopedic surgery patient. LCDR Jason Patascil, CRNA, is aspirating prior to the administration of the bupivacaine, and CAPT Lynda Walters, CRNA, is observing the monitor for placement.
The military CRNAs were well-trained and did a considerable amount of teaching, under these trying situations, to any CRNAs who did not have the experience.

CAPT Lynda Walters, CRNA, awaiting the arrival of a critical patient on the roof deck of the USNS Comfort.

CAPT Lynda Walters, CRNA, waiting for the arrival of a patient in critical condition, on the roof deck of the USNS Comfort.

Guarding the Latrines

Soldiers guarding near the latrines. Field hospitals are visible in the background.

Nina Bullard, CRNA, Getting her Patient Ready in Pre-op on the USNS Comfort

CRNA Nina Bullard comforts a 12-year-old preoperative patient.