Doctors, nurses with roots in Illinois deploy with Navy hospital ship in Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – The USNS Mercy hospital ship docked in the Port of Los Angeles began taking on patients Sunday to release pressure on the county’s strained medical system amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

The floating hospital and its 1,000 beds will serve as a relief valve of sorts, allowing local hospitals to increase their focus on the growing number of COVID-19 patients in the LA area. It arrived on Friday.

It’s an assignment nurse and Evanston native Helen Galliani always wanted, but she never imagined it would come true under such circumstances. Back home in Illinois, her mother Beth Galliani said she’s both proud and relieved.

“I feel actually a little bit better because she is an ER nurse in San Diego at Balboa Hospital and she had already been admitting COVID-19 patients, and now that ship is not taking in any COVID-19, they’re just relieving all the pressure from the hospitals,” Galliani said.

The USNS Mercy arrives at the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, 2020, to provide critical support to local hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic. (KTLA)
The USNS Mercy arrives at the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, 2020, to provide critical support to local hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic. (KTLA)

Helen Galliani was prepared to serve after graduating from the University of Michigan’s ROTC nursing program in 2018, according to her mother, but had said things were “really scary” at her own hospital before she deployed.

“I think she felt really bad leaving her hospital, she felt really needed there and so she was worried about all those doctors and nurses having to take on double shifts,” Beth Galliani said.

Now that she’s serving on board the Mercy, Beth Galliani said her daughter could be on the ship for up to six months.

“This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their Intensive Care Units and ventilators for those patients,” according to a statement issued by the Navy’s 3rd Fleet.

Novel coronavirus cases in Los Angeles county topped 2,100 on Sunday, with 37 deaths from the virus reported.

“The men and women embarked on board Mercy are energized, eager and ready to provide relief to those in need,” Capt. John Rotruck, Mercy’s Military Treatment Facility commanding officer said.

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