Newborns Evacuated in Horrifying Superstorm Sandy Power Outage at NYC Hospital


Superstorm Sandy kept a lot of us along the East Coast in its thrall last night, but it was an especially harrowing night for many people in New York City-area hospitals. Late in the night NYU Langone Medical Center lost its backup generator and had to evacuate some 215 patients – including about 20 newborn babies, four with breathing tubes! An estimated 45 of the patients were critical care patients.

Starting around 11 p.m. last night a caravan of ambulances lined up outside the hospital to transport patients to other hospitals in the area — one by one. Patients were supported by battery-operated pumps and monitors. Via Twitter I heard that nurses were carrying newborns down nine flights of stairs.

The long line of ambulances was still there early this morning, but reports say almost all of the patients have been safely evacuated. Apparently the staff created makeshift sleds to transport patients down the stairs. CBS medical correspondent Jonathan LaPook gave an inside look at the crisis at Langone. ”I saw a 29-week-old premature being held by a nurse who held an oxygen mask to his face,” he says.
Many patients were too sick to walk down the narrow staircase to the lobby. They were painstakingly carried on plastic sleds — one by one — by teams of
The intensive care unit was already evacuated when I arrived. Lit only by my flashlight, filled with crumpled blankets and other evidence of a hasty retreat, it appeared eerie to me – like a scene in a movie where a cup of still-warm-coffee tells the detective that sofour to five people from as high up as the 17th floor.
mebody had been a room only minutes before. But this was undeniably real life and the clock was ticking as the team of workers raced to evacuate the patients.
Hospital administrators still don’t know how the backup generator failed. As of Monday morning there were no plans to evacuate and the hospital sent out a press release saying as much. Clearly they were counting on that generator to pull them through this emergency.
I can’t imagine how terrifying this must have been for both the staff and the patients to be suddenly plunged into darkness — especially those patients who were on life-sustaining equipment. We have to count the nurses and other medical professionals who rushed to keep patients alive and transported them to the ambulances waiting below among last night’s heroes. 
It must have been a logistical nightmare to figure out which patients should be moved first, and where. When I watched the news last night the scene looked intense, but also calm and orderly. Many sharply-focused people were working together to resolve this crisis.
While Langone staff were managing that crisis, another crisis was unfolding at Coney Island Hospital, in Brooklyn. Reports that the main building had caught fire went out around 10:00 p.m. last night. The hospital was surrounded by three to four  of water, making a rescue difficult. But thankfully it turned out that the hospital was not on fire after all — a car in front of the building had caught fire.

Image via tamakisono

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