USNS Mercy speeds relief throughout Pacific - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

USNS Mercy speeds relief throughout Pacific

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Instead of going to the hospital when you're sick, what if the hospital came to you?  KUAM News explored one of the largest mobile medical facilities in the nation.

The USNS Mercy sounds like an ordinary hospital, and from the inside looks like one. But one thing is very different about this hospital than most - it floats. She stretches nearly 900 feet in length and reaches throughout the Pacific, bringing medical treatment to those in need.

Commanding Officer Captain Jeffrey Paulson said, "The hospital really is designed to go ahead and support any mission we are tasked with."

Just in from Hawaii, the Mercy will travel throughout the Pacific making stops in places such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Palau. "We are able to go into countries and provide health care and prepare for future disasters," said Captain Paulson.

Corpsman Elizabeth Pell took us on a tour of the massive medical facility, demonstrating, "This whole level has towers; it's all laid out if we need it."

The ship can service up to 500 patients a day with total of 1000 beds in 15 medical wards.  Patients are able to receive surgery, outpatient and preventive care, saying, "We are here in the casual receiving unit this is the first place patients are brought on the ship."

From there, Pell took us through the Intensive Care Unit, various operating rooms, the recovery center, pharmacy, and even a dental unit.  The ship will be docked off the naval base through Monday and for Lieutenant Penny Perez, one of Guam's own, this voyage meant a brief visit home.  Asked what she thought about being home, even if just briefly, she said, "It's wonderful. I haven't been home in a long time and I've been homesick, it was great I was very emotional."

Corpsman Pell shares one of her most emotional memories aboard the Mercy, saying, "We were in Vietnam there was an 8-year-old girl burned by some hot oil and she wasn't able to lift her arms and one of our plastic surgeons able to get full range of motion back."

This is the kind of miracle the over a thousand crew members will perform from their station in the sea.  The USNS Mercy will pick up 300 crewmembers while docked on Guam and will next head to Vietnam to continue their humanitarian mission.

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