A task force of 40 Maryland nurses and doctors is waiting to travel to Kuwait to treat war-injured Kuwaiti citizens.
"They have been told to go with their black bags -- they could go from putting a band aid on to doing open-heart surgery," said Tricia Slawinski, project manager for the Maryland International Health Task Force.
Dr. James D'Orta, chairman of the task force and assistant director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Franklin Square Hospital, said the group was formed at the request of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"This is a unique thing in that the governor asked the medical community to put it together," said D'Orta, who added he expects to be faced with reconstructive surgeries of victims of cluster bombs and burns.
The mission will be financed through private sources and donations of medical supplies and uniforms, Slawinski said.
The 10-day medical mission grew out of Schaefer's visit to Kuwait after the war and a trade-and-aid agreement signed May 3 by the governor and the Kuwaiti ambassador.
That agreement gives the Port of Baltimore first crack at shipping Kuwait-bound cargo and promotes Maryland firms competing for business as the tiny emirate rebuilds itself. In return, Maryland has promised technical and medical aid to Kuwait.
"There are still mines that are exploding and . . . legs are being blown off and their hands are being blown off and there is a real need," Schaefer said at a news conference yesterday.
The nurses and doctors, including some of the area's top specialists, are volunteering their time for the mission. They were recruited from Baltimore area hospitals, mainly Johns Hopkins University Hospital and the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Unit.
Plastic surgeons, dentists, internists, geriatric and trauma doctors are among those in the task force. The group was formed in the winter with the goal of being able to travel within 48 hours to any point in the world where emergency medical services are needed.
Slawinski said the group expects to leave for Kuwait as soon as transportation can be arranged, most likely on Friday.