The sound of two bells rang through the loud speakers of the U.S. Navy’s floating hospital on Saturday to celebrate the arrival of a newborn baby girl.
The Navy’s USNS Comfort was sailing in the vicinity of San Juan, Puerto Rico -- providing medical assistance throughout a region devastated by Hurricane Maria -- when baby Sara Victoria Llull Rodriguiz made her arrival on board.
“I never thought that our special moment would happen here on this ship,” Sara’s father, Francisco Llull Vera, said in a statement Sunday. “Everyone has been so helpful and gentle while caring for our baby. I hope this opens the door for those who still need help to seek out the Comfort.”
Vera said Sara’s 6-year-old brother Alonzo and 4-year-old sister Sofia, currently staying with family ashore in Puerto Rico, are anxiously waiting to meet her.
“They are so excited to meet her,” Sara’s mother, Tania Rodriguiz Ramos said in a statement Sunday. “It’s a huge blessing for Sara to be here. I owe everything to the doctors and nurses and everyone onboard.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello went to visit baby Sara on Sunday. He shared pictures of him cradlling the baby in his arms, with her doctor and parents standing nearby. Rossello said Sara was “the first Puerto Rican girl born” on the USNS Comfort.
The USNS Comfort, which currently has 21 people on board, has treated more than 100 patients since Maria made landfall last month, killing at least 48 people and knocking out power for most of the island.
Nearly 4 weeks after the storm hit, about 85 percent of power customers are still without electricity and about 31 percent of customers lack access to potable water, officials said Sunday. The death toll was raised by three over the weekend and about 111 people missing due to the storm.
Comfort Capt. Kevin Robinson said Sara, who weighed in at 6 pounds and 8 ounces, brought a sense of joy to the crew.
“I think the birth of that little girl has reinvigorated the crew,” Robinson said in a statement.
The last birth aboard Comfort occurred on Jan. 21, 2010, while the ship was providing humanitarian relief in support of Operation Unified Response following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that caused severe damage in Haiti, according to the Navy.
The ship’s crew commemorated the occasion by ceremoniously renaming one of its two small boat tenders the “Sara Victoria.”
“We wanted to do something special, the crew has taken to the baby as one of our own,” Comfort Ship’s Master Roger Gwinn Gwinn said in a statement. “As she goes forward in life, we hope she carries Comfort with her.”