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Rysher Canillo

Brave Hospital Staff Stays Behind in Hurricane to Care For 19 Babies in Intensive Care

All newborn babies are fragile, but none more so than those whose first days are spent in neonatal intensive care.

When the category-4 Hurricane Laura threatened the city of Lake Charles in Louisiana, a mandatory evacuation was ordered, but for 19 of its newest residents, leaving was pretty much impossible.

Staff members at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital were adamant: If the babies couldn’t be evacuated safely, they’d remain behind with them until the danger passed.

With wind gusts of up to 135 miles per hour hammering the town, neonatologist Dr. Juan Bossano along with a team of 14 nurses, two neonatal nurse practitioners, and three respiratory therapists stayed behind in the NICU, caring for their tiny charges in shifts as the storm raged through the night.

Earlier in the day, the babies had been ferried from the single-story Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women to the hospital’s sturdier 10-floor main building. Some of the infants were on respirators or ventilators; some were born premature—as early as 23 weeks

Matt Felder, director of communications for Lake Charles Memorial Health system told CNN, “We transferred 19 NICU babies from that facility to our main campus…in record time—19 babies across the city in under two hours.”

Doctors, hospital residents, members of the sheriff’s department, and a host of others all pitched in to make sure the babies and everything necessary for their care—including respirators and incubators—safely made the trip.

By the time the worst of the storm hit, the staff and the babies were hunkered down in the hallways, as far away from the howling winds and whipping rain as they could get.

“It’s important to know the dedication of all the nurses and the respiratory therapists to keep taking care of the babies when they don’t even know the condition of their homes,” Dr. Bossano told CNN. “In a small town like this, people have to pull together. I’m proud of them.”

During the night, the air conditioning was knocked out and the hospital lost water service. Throughout the ordeal, Dr. Bossano kept anxious parents and relatives updated via frequent posts to his Facebook page.

With the storm over, and all of the little patients faring well, the babies were set to be transferred to other area NICUs where vital services hadn’t been interrupted by the hurricane. “This morning because the babies were stable, I got a couple of hours of sleep—we are still in the hospital,” Bossano said.

The old lullaby warns, ‘When the wind blows, the cradles will rock,’ but for the heroic staffers at this hospital, letting them fall simply wasn’t an option.