Large white ship with red crosses painted on it (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
The U.S. Navy ship called the Comfort operates as a full-fledged floating hospital. It's seen here off the coast of Colombia. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

A U.S. Navy hospital ship called the Comfort is wrapping up its 11-week mission to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Honduras where it provided life-saving treatment and top-flight medical care to thousands in need.

“It’s the United States’ promise to Central and South America to continue providing medical care and unity,” said Lieutenant Commander David C. Lloyd. “The Comfort brings hope, wherever it goes.”

U.S. military personnel have been working alongside health and government partners providing care on board and at land-based medical sites since the floating hospital left port in October. This is the sixth time Comfort has deployed to the region. Past missions have provided medical treatment to more than 390,000 patients, including 6,000 surgeries.

The medical specialists are providing extra support to local health care systems that are being overwhelmed by the influx of Venezuelan refugees who are fleeing the corrupt regime of Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolás Maduro. He and his cronies have driven what was once a rich country to the brink of collapse due to widespread corruption and economic mismanagement, causing food shortages, hyperinflation and the collapse of the public health sector.

“The Comfort’s mission to the area of responsibility was designed to help relieve the pressure on national medical systems caused partly by the increase in cross-border migration,” said Captain William K. Shafley III, the Comfort mission commander.

Young boy standing next to replica boat (U.S. Army/Specialist Joseph DeLuco)
A 9-year-old patient stands in front of his handmade, cardboard replica of the USNS Comfort at a land-based medical site in Colombia. The real ship can support up to 1,215 medical personnel and has 1,000 hospital beds, 12 operating theaters and a fully stocked pharmacy. (U.S. Army/Specialist Joseph DeLuco)

From surgery to dental checks

Compilation of surgery being performed on patient's eye (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom) and dentist examining girl's mouth (State Dept./Daniel Durazo)
On the left, Dr. John Jarstead, an ophthalmologist from the University of Missouri, wraps a patient’s eye after performing cataract surgery aboard the Comfort while in Ecuador. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom) On the right, Dr. Brenda Martínez, a 1st Captain and dental surgeon in the Mexican Armed Forces, treats a young woman who was suffering from tooth pain and had never been to a dentist. (State Dept./Daniel Durazo)

Smiles from a returning patient

Compilation of woman hugging boy and woman talking to children seated around table (State Dept./Daniel Durazo)
On the left, Pedro Daniel Anton Eche, 8, gets a hug from his mom, Petronila, during his second trip to the Comfort for cleft palate surgery. He received his first surgery aboard the Comfort when it was in Peru in 2011, when he was 8 months old. His mother calls the treatment “an enormous blessing.” On the right, Jessica Lozada uses coloring sheets to keep a group of children busy while they wait for their parents. She teaches them about preventing mosquito bites at the same time. (State Dept./Daniel Durazo)
Couple dancing, surrounded by people clapping (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman J. Keith Wilson)
U.S. Navy Captain Kevin Buckley, commanding officer of the Medical Treatment Facility on the Comfort, dances with a member of a performance troupe in Colombia. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman J. Keith Wilson)

The commanding officer of the Medical Treatment Facility, Captain Kevin Buckley, calls service on the Comfort one of the highlights of his career.  He says it has given him the opportunity “to help people and create partnerships.”

This article was written by Daniel Durazo with contributions from Leigh Hartman.