Premature babies' story of survival in superstorm

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by CBS NEws

KMOV.com

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 10:31 AM

(CBS News) As superstorm Sandy slammed into New York City Monday night, more than 10 feet of water flooded seven buildings of the NYU Langone Medical Center. The facility lost power at the height of the storm. Doctors, nurses and hospital staff sought to evacuate about 300 patients that night. And some of the tiniest evacuees -- 20 newborn babies clinging to life in the neonatal intensive care unit -- were the most at risk.

New mom Jo-An Tremblay-Shepherd said, "The power went off completely, and all of the monitors, you're seeing all these monitors here, and there's a lot of buzzing and whatnot and everything just went."

Tremblay-Shepherd's son, Jackson, born 27 weeks prematurely, was carried in the dark by a nurse who also held his oxygen tank.

"We had to go down nine flights of stairs that were wet and had adult patients lying on the floors in like stretchers," Tremblay-Shepherd recalled. "It was pretty crazy, and all this in complete darkness."

Outside the hospital, Jeremy Donovan had come to check on his son William who was born three weeks ago with congenital heart disease. But no one would let him in. He said, "I tried to explain that I had a 3-week-old, fresh off of heart surgery, but that negotiation was fruitless."

Donovan waited outside in the driving wind and rain for two hours. Finally, a doctor escorted him inside.

He said, "We kind of jogged/ran 15 flights of stairs to his floor and got to the top of the steps and the floor was pitch black. I found my son and I found his nurse and that was kind of an awesome moment, and then we just walked down together."

A harrowing drive down dark, slick streets to hospitals that hadn't lost power followed: Mount Sinai for William, Montefiore for Jackson.

Tremblay-Shepherd said, "For (Jackson's) situation, for his age, he's doing really, really good, considering the long drive in the ambulance it took to get here."

By Tuesday morning, all of the patients at NYU Langone Medical Center were successfully evacuated to nearby hospitals. No one is more grateful for the hospital's response than the parents of those 20 infants. Donovan said, "They didn't choose the hurricane they didn't choose the power outage, but they responded perfectly to it. As a parent, it's very intense to deal with something like this with your kid, but to know he's getting the best possible care has meant the world to my wife and I and we're just really grateful."

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