Good News Story: A Tale of Two Naval Ships

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Agility in the Face of a Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, the fight against the new pathogen is often compared to a battle. Hospitals have become the front line of this battle around the world, transforming entire wings into COVID-19 care units. Several Navy medical ships with the ability to accommodate large numbers of patients have been deployed to aid in the fight.

Ships like the USNS Mercy and the Chilean Sargento Aldea are helping to reduce the strain on local hospitals, initially offering a space for non-COVID-19 patients, hospital overflow, and urgent surgical needs. These floating hospitals are outfitted with operating rooms and medical laboratories, and the DePuy Synthes team has mobilized to provide spine and trauma surgery equipment.  

“It is crucial that we are prepared as a company to respond when there is a health crisis,” said I.V. Hall, Worldwide President, Trauma, Extremities, CMF and Animal Health. “Whether it’s a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or tsunami, or a pandemic, a rapid response depends on our ability to adapt and assist where needed. In the case of COVID-19, that agility was invaluable.”

Normally missions of this size would be planned months in advance, but the team had only a few days’ notice before ships like the USNS Mercy were deployed.

Jim Bommarito, a former U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman and surgical tech who now works as a Trauma Sales Consultant for DePuy Synthes, never thought he’d see the day when the ships would be needed on American shores. In Los Angeles, the USNS Mercy was sent to treat some of the non-COVID-19 patient population so that land-bound hospital staff could have more resources to treat those suffering from the novel coronavirus.

Bommarito, along with Spine Sales Representative Matt Miller, and CMF (craniomaxillofacial) Trauma Sales Representative Mark Williams reported to the ship to assess readiness and prepare the crew. “In some ways, this was just like any other mission,” Bommarito said. “The crew was helping fight a war. But unlike most missions, this fight was happening at home.” In addition, Miller spoke of his experience aboard the ship: “The ship was buzzing with troops working to get essential gear organized and loaded. We left that day with the feeling of the highest honor and couldn't have been prouder to be representing J&J, DePuy Synthes and our nation, doing our small part in helping our country in this critical time of need.”

Bommarito takes pride in being available for the hospital staff whenever they need him. “One of the most important aspects of my job is to be present with the hospital staff when they have questions and concerns, and to make sure they have what they need,” he said. “I’ve told the crew that I’m here for them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to get them anything they need—whether that’s more equipment, supplies or staff.”

In Talcahuano, Chile, the Sargento Aldea ship is also providing crucial support for the community.

sargento aldea ship

Prior planning was in place to ensure they would be ready if need to deploy, but with this case, agility was essential. Instead of the usual month-long lead time, they only had three days.

“It was important to be close to the surgeons at every step, especially for emergencies,” said sales representative Carol Andrea Medina Burgos. “We can always find ways to support and be part of their objectives while remaining committed to patients.”

The first trauma surgery on the ship in Chile was performed with DePuy Synthes Variable Angle Locking Hand System. As more procedures move forward, the DePuy Synthes team will continue to be there for surgeons.

“We’ll keep supporting [surgeons] by replacing the materials on time, and by being permanently in touch with the surgical team,” said sales supervisor Juan Luis Gellona Zuñiga. “It’s our mission to keep providing the quality of our product for the safety of patients”

Dr. Sergio Sepúlveda, Head of the Orthopedic Unit commented, “During these unparalleled times, all efforts of the national health system are dedicated to solving the problems arising from the pandemic. With the collaboration of the Chilean Navy, we have been able to deliver care to patients that require urgent treatment.”

As events unfold in the coming months, it is certain that physicians will continue doing what they can to help their patients, and DePuy Synthes will continue to be ready and agile to respond to the needs of front-line workers—whether on ground or at sea.

“If I can help by taking just one worry off their plate,” said Bommarito, “Then I’ve done something to be a part of this—something to help.”