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Two Sailors aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) gave an infant another chance at life Jan. 24 when the child was born in critical condition aboard the hospital ship as it operated off the coast of Haiti.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Matthew Blake and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Catherine Andrews were both working in Casualty Receiving (CASREC) when a pregnant woman was brought aboard. She was in labor and in need of immediate medical care for injuries suffered in the earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12.
Because she was unstable, the medical personnel in CASREC passed the word that she would have to deliver immediately. The woman was rushed into the operating room for a Caesarian section where Andrews and Blake were on hand to assist.
"I normally work as an orthopedic technician," said Andrews, a native of Mounds, Ill. "I worked as a labor and delivery nurse for two years, so I was like, okay I can catch the baby."
Assisting in a birth was completely new to Blake, but his training kicked in when the baby was handed to him from the doctors.
"When the baby was delivered, he was not breathing independently and his heart was beating very slowly," said Blake, a Clarksville, Tenn. native.
Andrews said, "Initially we tried to rub towels on the baby and try to get baby to wake up and cry. When that wasn't working we took vitals and the heart rate was down, so I automatically tried to give the baby oxygen. Oxygen wasn't helping so we had to start CPR."
With quick action and unwavering confidence in their training as hospital corpsmen, Blake and Andrews' saved the baby's life.
"I physically did the chest compressions and I was pushing the fluid of life around that child," said Blake. "At that moment procedure took over."
Saving an infant's life is something that resonated deeply with both Sailors, but it was only one of many experiences they've had providing medical care in support of Operation Unified Response in Haiti.
"I have poured my time, effort and heart into this mission," said Blake. "I feel that I have contributed a lot to these people's lives."
Said Andrews of the experience, "I can't even explain it. We pretty much gave the baby a chance at life."