Guardians Report In: HS1 Larry Berman


The following account comes from Health Services Technician First Class (HS1) Larry Berman. HS1 Berman serves as “ship’s doc” aboard the CGC Tahoma and was one of the first medical responders to the Haiti earthquake. The words that follow are his and we’ve included Coast Guard photos to try and help tell the story. As Guardians continue to report in from Haiti, we will do our best to bring you their stories here at Coast Guard Compass.

UPDATE: Click here to watch a video of HS1 Berman live from Haiti.

HS1 Larry Berman reviews medical supplies for the make-shift clinic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
HS1 Larry Berman reviews medical supplies for the make-shift Haitian Coast Guard Medical Clinic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Today (Saturday) was day three that the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma and Mohawk manned up the small Haitian Coast Guard Medical Clinic. All three days, we have treated the local Haitian people for broken bones, lacerations, huge open wounds, etc. The outer court yard is filled with desperate people wanting medical attention.

Myself and HS2 Elias Gomez have taken the lead on who gets treated and who has to wait. Both boats are helping in some capacity or another, medical treatment, security, supply room, small boating Coast Guardsmen back and forth from the ships. So, many people from the two boats are helping. Some have to man the daily operations of the two boats, but everyone is eager to volunteer to come ashore and lend a hand.

HS2 Gomez and I, and a couple of people with EMT experience, have training on mass casualty scenarios, but in that situation there are helos and ambulances to take people to hospitals. Not so here. Until today, we have treated the people and they stay. Their homes are wrecked, the streets are clogged, and there have not been any medevacs.

Today, day three, was the first day that we got a few people out; I think the count was 10. The primary goal each day has been to treat and evac those needing amputations. My happiest moment came this morning as one man with a left crushed arm, 30 medical staples and sutures to the face, and a scalp wound was evaced to a hospital. The first day, as triage goes, we thought he was near death so we deferred to stronger amputations who were a mess, but much alive. The following day, when we saw that he was still alive, HS2 Gomez and I decided that he would be our priority. That was yesterday. I scrubbed what was his arm with Betadine, tourniqueted the arm and wrapped it in a red contamination bag. HS2 stapled a huge facial wound with the medical staples and sutures. HS2 Elias Gomez was a master, caring for the patient. I cleaned maggots from his scalp wound and sutured that up. We also hit him up with antibiotics. As I said, today he flew to a hospital. That my friends was an outstanding moment for HS2 and myself.

We have treated more patients than we can count, then they go out to sit in the outer court yard.

The scene includes about 30-40 Coast Guardsmen and about 20 Haitian volunteers with various experience. A couple of Haitian nurses and doctors have joined us, but the leadership of the clinic has been HS2 and myself. I believe that the Haitians have recognized the discipline and order that the Tahoma and Mohawk have demonstrated. OS1 Sweetman, YN1 Winslow and ETC Frownfelter have lead the security for the compound. They keep order. The Mohawk has taken leadership over the supply room. I wish that I could tell you their names, but there is one Chief that has done a great job with the stock room.

Both Mohawk and Tahoma crewmen are willing to do anything. I have seen our Engineering Officer LT Sanzo out in the courtyard bandaging people. I saw our Executive Officer LCDR Fisher hold the hand of a little girl while her wounds were being painfully scrubbed. I was able to come and administer a small amount of morphine to the little girl which made the XO’s job easier.

Today was the first day also that the decision was made to use morphine. The compound fractures and skin ripped off some of their bodies warranted it as we had to clean the infected wounds. Morphine is mercy.

For the past 3 days, Tahoma and Mohawk have had to make hundreds of decisions on how to help these people. We are all exhausted. We are all running on adrenalin. We are working in the heat, sweating. No one goes to the bathroom until be get back to the ship from 0830 to 1715 Hrs. Both Gomez and I have been ordered to take breaks. It is non-stop. Today, I had to ask what day it was. I had no idea. Thank God we are starting to get a few people out. Tomorrow we hope to get at least 12 of the worst out.

A baby is born to a young Haitian woman on the deck of the CGC Tahoma. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
A baby is born to a young Haitian woman on the deck of the CGC Tahoma. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Today at about 1430 I finally obeyed our XO and YN1 Winslow to take a break and eat. Then after about 15 minutes I was called on the radio to get back to the clinic. Someone was going to have a baby! I ran from the pier to the courtyard, about 200 yards to see a 21 year old Haitian woman sitting and looking weak with people holding her hand.

She told me that the baby had not moved since that morning. I felt her abdomen and could not feel the baby move. She appeared to be full term. Gomez, who from here on out I will call by his first name, Elias, brought her into the clinic and got her up on a table. We examined her to see if she was crowning which she was not. We could not feel the baby move at all. We both placed stethoscopes on her and could not hear a sound from the baby. As best as we could we were beginning to think the worst, so after we were told that there would not be any more flights out, the command listened to us and got her and one more amputee to the Tahoma for medevac.

A short time later, I was shouted to by OS1 Sweetman to get to the small boat back to the Tahoma, a baby boy was born on the flight deck! What?

As I got in the small boat, a Lieutenant who I had never seen before was in the boat next to me. After 3 days of prayers God sent us a Flight Surgeon. Elias and I and many of our church members have been praying for a surgeon to help us. I apologize, as I write this at 2339 Hrs, after a long day, I can not recall his name.

The crew of the Tahoma delivered the baby. I know that OSC Watkins and DC2 Schrewsbury and about 15 others had parts in the delivery. The Flight Surgeon and I got there and assessed the health of the mother and baby boy. I took the vitals and listened to the baby’s heart. It was making sounds now Elias! Pink, warm and well. The flight Surgeon lead the delivery of the placenta on the flight deck and several of us cleaned the baby after its first BM. Then they were medevaced off the hospital.

To my great joy, the Navy arrived. Two surgeons from the USS Carl Vinson and 3 Medical Corpsmen came to join us. Help has arrived. Tomorrow fresh minds will lead the clinic. To be honest with you, Elias and I could run the clinic for a 4th day, but we are slowing, just a bit, after making all the decisions at the camp involving medical care. I do not think I could pull a day 5.

Tomorrow, Elias and I will be able to perform the way we prefer. The Medical Officers make the tough calls and we follow their lead. Tomorrow we will get a break, I think, and take lesser roles. However, we are told that we are starting earlier. Rather than leave for the clinic at 0830, tomorrow, which comes in 7 minutes, we leave at 0730.

I am writing this to wind down. Everyone on the CGC Tahoma and CGC Mohawk has a story to tell. There are dozens and dozens of stories of brave acts from the crew and the Haitian people. Oh, we all felt the earth shake today. It was a small but noticeable shake.

HS1 Larry J Berman
Independent Health Services Technician
“Ship’s Doc”
United States Coast Guard

27 comments on “Guardians Report In: HS1 Larry Berman”

  1. Please pass along my appreciation of the Coast Guards response to the crisis in Haiti. In all the humanitarian efforts I witness, Coast Guardsmen continue to be true first responders. The Coast Guard providing medical assistance to children at the Haitian Coast Guard base, their help to deliver a baby onboard a US Coast Guard cutter, assistance in evacuations, supply distribution, and other matters, are no small feat. It pains me terribly to see so much devastation and destruction in an area already disparaged by poverty, and corruption. While all others are trying desperately to escape, the Coast Guard comes rushing in. You bring with you expertise, good will, and possibly the most powerful aid there is, hope. You are the most amazing people, performing the greatest missions ever, helping your fellow mankind. And once again the Coast Guard lives up to its creed.
    I commend your organization, your members and leaders for their expedient and acute response to the crisis in Haiti. May you reap tremendous personal satisfaction for the service that you have provided to our nation, and be reminded often of the positive impact you have made in the lives of so many.
    Great stories and photo’s documenting your organizations mission during this difficult time. I would love to see more video, photos, and stories of the humanitarian efforts being made by the Coast Guard at the Haitian Coast Guard Base. Perhaps also a story on the damage, loss of lives, hardships, etc. of the Haitian Coast Guard men and women.

  2. Great job, Doc. Saw your story on MSNBC. You and your crew are doing amazing things, and I’m proud to be a shipmate.
    I know it takes extra time at the end of a long night to write it down, but there’s nothing like a firsthand account to convey what’s going on out there. I, and I’m sure many others, thank you for your extra effort.
    You’re amazing. Thank you for your service.
    AMD, PA1

  3. Wow! Keep these first hand stories coming! It great to read posts from the people on the ground. Know that were all behind you and the Coasties that can’t be there send their best. Be safe.

  4. BZ Coast Guard. We Navy guys give you hell for not being USN, but we know you will come through when we, and others, need you most.

  5. “Doc’s”, Larry and Elias It’s times like this I wish I were still in the Coast Guard so I could help you guys out. Doc Berman and Doc Gomez, you guys are truely keeping up the tredition of the US Coast Guard “Doc’s” and making all of us back home both active duty and retired Coasties very proud of what you are doing down in Haiti. I remember when my wife first told me about the earth quake in Haiti. The first thing she said is “The Coast Guard is there and two “Doc’s” are taking care of the wounded. This gave me a feeling of pride because I knew those in need of emergency medical care would be getting the best possible care from the “Doc’s” at that time. Brovo Zulu to you guys and all the Coasties down there as well as all the other military down there. I know the guys on your ships sure appreciate all the emergency medical training you have taught them, who knew they would ever use it. Semper Paratus guys and a big Brov Zulu. Michael “Doc” Harrington, USCG Ret.

  6. I mean this in all sincerity: You are a Humanitarian, a Guardian, and professional.

    God bless you all you serve and serve with.


  7. Fantastic and compelling update. Proud of what you and other brave and compassionate Americans are doing to help the helpless. My son serves on the CGC Midgett out of Seattle and I know he and his crewmates wish they could be alongside, helping in Haiti. Thanks for being Semper Paratus. You and your crewmates have the best wishes and prayers of my family behind you!

  8. Please tell my son he is doing a great job…keep up the great work as his mother and I are very proud of him and the entire crew of the “Mighty T”.

  9. One of my more radical friends from college said I was crazy for going to work for the U.S. Military regarless of the organization’s mission. I still tell him how proud I am to help train Guardians. Thanks for reaffirming my pride!

  10. Proud to be a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and an employee of the Coast Guard working in District One offices. Great job…..

  11. Your the best. Iam 66 years old and wish I could be their with you guys. We are proud of you, hang in their!

  12. Thank you Coast Guard medics and EMT’s. As a 68 yr. old retired emergency and disaster trained nurse, I love reading your reports. Please don’t pay attention to those idiots who are printing negative stuff about our military involvement. Hopefully, your too busy to hear some of this stuff. Keep up the good work. Things will get better. You are doing a terrific job!!!!

  13. I am proud of the Cost Guard and all that they have done in Haiti to help the people there. My son is on the cutter Forward which was the first to arrive in Haiti. their job was to look over the harbor to see if any one could get in. He has now left Haiti on Tues. to go to their next stop. Wish all you guys and ladies well. Keep up the good work

  14. Great job! But by the reports on TV, one would never know this wa happening. The media seems to delight in reporting what other countries are doing compared to the U.S, or what the lack of relief supplies or medical care.

  15. am proud of the Cost Guard and all that they have done in Haiti to help the people there. Well done.

  16. We appreciate all that you’ve done and are doing to help the people that are in Haiti. You’ve risked your lives for other people of whom you don’t even know. The supplies you’ve provided to the Haitians for survival is very generous and wonderful. You are all doing a great job and we hope you stay safe. Never give up hope and keep the faith. There are many prayers going out for your safety, strength and wisdom. Sometimes in life we get these catastrophic events that really help us define our purpose in life and this is one of them. We’re sorry that this happened but very thankful that you are there to ease the burden of hundreds and thousands of Haitians. Sending all our love and please be careful. Thank you to everyone on the CGC Tahoma, from Girl Scout Troop 405.

  17. Our Flotilla is in total support of the Campbell and Tahoma in Portsmouth, NH.

    What would the ramifications be if the USCG would open a refueling/medical base on Haiti?

  18. I just want to say I am beginner to weblog and seriously enjoyed this web site. Likely I’m likely to bookmark your website . You definitely have incredible posts. Kudos for sharing with us your webpage.

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