Fleet Surgical Team 5 Helps New Orleans' Medical Staff Conduct Surgery at Sea
USS NEW ORLEANS, At Sea - Sailors assigned to Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 5 helped the medical team aboard the amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18) perform an emergency appendectomy while deployed, Dec. 22.
Three New Orleans crew members participated in the operation, which lasted a little more than an hour. The operation is the first such procedure for the ship's medical staff.
"It can be a life-threatening emergency if you don't have the appendix removed in time," said Lt. Kyle Gadbois, general surgeon assigned to FST 5. "You want to get to it before it bursts; today, we were able to get to the appendix in time."
The eight Sailors from FST 5, assigned to the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), embarked New Orleans Dec. 8 in support of Marine Exercise 2012 in Cambodia and were scheduled to depart New Orleans Dec. 23.
The team's mission is to perform surgical procedures, stabilize casualties and prepare them for transport to medical facilities ashore.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Christopher Melo, New Orleans' only surgical technician, said having FST 5 on board enhanced the ship's medical department by providing the ability to perform immediate life-sustaining surgical procedures.
"Today was a surprise for us; it was the last day of the FST on board, and we got it done," he said. "I make sure everything is ready to go regardless if they're here or not. But since they were here, we were able to go ahead and get this procedure done."
Melo also said it would have taken too long to transfer the patient to another ship or shore facility.
"In most cases you would fly them to Makin Island or the closest country," he said. "But since they're too far away and we already have them [FST 5] on board, we felt we could get it done."
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Erin Brooks, a surgical technician assigned to FST 5, said working on a smaller ship provided some minor challenges.
"It has everything a regular hospital has," she said. "The rocking motion can be a little touch and go, plus it's smaller than your regular operating room, but at the end of the day the appendix has to come out one way or another."
New Orleans deployed Nov. 14 in support of the nation's maritime strategy and is currently conducting theater security cooperation missions in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).
New Orleans, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), along with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, make up the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group.
The mission of the Makin Island ARG is to help provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas and provide humanitarian/disaster response as well as supporting the Navy's maritime strategy when forward deployed.
The 7th Fleet AOR includes more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans, stretching from the international date line to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.
More than half of the world's population lives within the 7th Fleet AOR. In addition, more than 80 percent of that population lives within 500 miles of the oceans, which means this is an inherently maritime region.