Aboard the USNS Comfort in Haiti

U.S. Military helicopters began ferrying victims of the earthquake to the USNS Comfort Wednesday, the hospital ship which will provide much-needed support the medical teams working so heroically over this past week - and they all hope the Comfort lives up to her name.

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton takes a tour of the ship.

The Comfort's 1000-bed capacity should max out quickly - in the two hours CBS News was on board, that patient count more than doubled, from 40 to 83.

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Dietrich Rey, a 35-year old military translator, helps doctors communicate with patients as they are admitted. His mission has special purpose - he grew up just outside Port-au-Prince.

"It's been quite trying," Ray said. "'I'm sad for the reason we're here but glad we're helping' is the Navy's motto is we are a global force for good and this is the epitome of that statement."

Everywhere on board, medical teams asked Ashton about conditions on the ground and the clinic where she's been working this week.

Medical Director Tim Donahue showed Ashton around the ship's impressive facilities, like a 20-bed surgical recovery room.

"If they are real critical patients they're going to move right to the ICU," Donahue said. "So these are going to be less-sick patients, but that's going to fill up."

The fact is, every area, every ward on the Comfort will likely be stretched to capacity. Sadly, that includes the pediatric ward, but it is stocked with some special equipment.

When surgeon Dan Shmorhun's 9-year-old daughter Katya learned her dad was headed to Haiti - she organized a teddy bear drive at her school, which resulted in 3,500 stuffed animals sit ready to lend just a bit more Comfort to the quake's smallest victims.

This floating hospital has every specialist available. The only procedures it can't perform are organ transplants and open-heart surgeries.
  • Jennifer Ashton

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