LCDR Sara Pickett, RN, MSN, CCSN
A nuclear-powered aircraft carrier isn't exactly built for taking care of newborns, but when Lieutenant-Commander Sara Pickett, the Ship's Nurse on the USS Vinson and herself a mother of three, saw a Haitian mother and her two-hour-old baby arrive by helicopter, she knew just what to do. "An aircraft carrier is made entirely of steel," she says. "We had no diapers, no formula, no cradles. So we cut up blankets … and turned washcloths into diapers. Our parachute riggers even made little clothes out of T-shirts."
Pickett, 37, was especially moved by the young mother's breastfeeding concerns. “She was afraid she couldn't feed her baby, because in her village the women put a paste on a new mother's breast in the shower and slap her breasts to make her milk come in. I told this mom, 'If you need me to do that, I'll do that. We just have to get this baby to eat.'"
Eventually the baby did nurse, but Pickett's work was hardly done. Over the next five days, Pickett, herself a critical care nurse, taught her 33 medical corpsmen to take care of the 60 patients who arrived on the Vinson, including those with massive infections, broken bones, and recently amputated limbs.
"I hope we touched lives," she says. "I know we saved lives. It feels good to help people. That's why I'm in the Navy."