Many of the one thousand members of the U.S. Navy medical team and civil service mariners serving on the USNS Mercy -- the hospital ship in the Port of Los Angeles helping hospitals there cope with the growing number of COVID-19 cases -- are from San Diego.
Among them is Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Billie Soloman from the Tierrasanta area.
“We have a great team here," HM1 Soloman said.
When he got the call that he had less than a week to get ready to depart.
“I had mixed emotions of course, I was excited that we’re doing this," he said.
Part of the Navy medical team, HM1 Soloman works in a room just about in the center of the nearly 70,000-ton ship that stretches nearly 900 feet in length.
“It’s our job to make sure all the equipment is ready and safe for patient use,” said HM1 Soloman.
The Mercy is a fully functional hospital and there is a lot of equipment on board, including ventilators vital for COVID-19 patients, and it all needs to be ready to meet the needs of patients.
The USNS Mercy is not taking coronavirus patients at this point, unlike the USNS Comfort in port off New York. When NBC 7 asked the Corpsman if he had any thoughts about if that should change, HM1 Soloman said, “None.”
Personally, Solomon said he had worries about leaving his family during the pandemic.
“I am able to message them and talk to them, so I’m definitely always checking up on them,” he said. “So far so good.”
Anyone who boards the Mercy is tested for the coronavirus. As of April 7, some 27 patients have been treated on the 1,000-bed hospital ship; gunshot wounds, heart failure and pneumonia, but no COVID-19, according to a spokesperson
To keep the medical team energized for what maybe to come there is a full gym on board. The Navy Corpsman relaxes with other crew members playing video games and “Catching up on TV series movies,” said HM1 Soloman.
The Navy Corpsman said he’s feeling good about his first assignment to a Navy hospital ship and he is hoping that everybody back home is, “Staying safe and staying healthy.”