When the power died, the nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at New York University’s Langone Medical Center in Lower Manhattan didn’t wait for the backup generator to kick in. They immediately snapped into emergency mode.
Sandra Kyong Bradbury, 30, and the other nurses in the unit knew that for the 20 babies in the NICU, some of whom were dependent on ventilators, even a temporary loss of power could be deadly. Using flashlights and the glow from their cell phones, they tended to each baby, checking vital signs and manually inflating ventilator bags. “Luckily it happened between shifts, so we had additional nurses on the floor,” says Bradbury.
Then came worse news: With no power, the nurses would have to quickly move the babies out of the medical center, even though floodwaters covered the streets around the hospital. “Think of the IVs, medication, ventilators,” says Bradbury. “It took a lot of coordination.”
With police officers, medical students, and firefighters helping to illuminate the stairwells, Bradbury slowly descended nine flights of stairs with a four-pound baby boy wrapped in a blanket in her arms. She repeated to herself: Take it slow. Be steady with every step. Don’t slip. Don’t fall. After the nurses reached the lobby, they climbed into waiting ambulances with the babies, doctors, and the babies’ parents. “Because they were in our arms, we were able to constantly monitor the babies’ color and heart rates,” says Bradbury.
Thanks to her and the other NICU nurses, all 20 infants were moved safely to one of three area hospitals. “We care for these babies every day,” says Bradbury. “This experience shows that we protect them as if they’re our own children.”
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