The staff at the Lake Charles Memorial Hospital NICU banded together and braved through the Category 4 hurricane to make sure the babies in their care were safe.
Last week, Category 4 Hurricane Laura hit Lake Charles, Louisiana, with force. As residents in the area evacuated in preparation for some of the worst of the storm, the hospital staff at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital's newborn intensive care unit (NICU) geared up for one of the most difficult nights of their careers. Lead doctor Dr. Juan Bossano and a team of 14 nurses, two neonatal nurse practitioners, and three respiratory therapists remained in the hospital as the hurricane raged on in order to take care of the 19 babies in their care, CNN reports. The babies have since been declared safe and "doing better" than all of the NICU staff.
The babies have varied needs, Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women vice president and administrator Alesha Alford revealed. Before the storm hit, they had to confront a different kind of challenge. Earlier that day, the threat of flooding as a result of the hurricane forced the NICU to evacuate their building at the women's hospital and relocate to the main center. "We had 19 NICU babies with four on ventilators, some of them very sick, and we were out in two hours," Alford shared. "I have never seen something work so quick and so smooth for something that was unexpected." Matt Felder, the director of communications for the Lake Charles Memorial Health system, added, "In two hours' time, we transferred 19 NICU babies from that facility to our main campus. They did it in record time, 19 babies across the city in under two hours."
While the women's hospital is only one floor, the main campus is 10 floors. The relocation was made possible because of the doctors, residents, sheriff's department, and others who helped transport the young ones and all of the equipment and supplies, such as respirators and incubators the staff needed to keep the babies safe. Then, it was about making it through the night. The winds were incredibly strong (the National Weather Service reported an hour of 120-135 mph wind gusts), water leaked through the hospital windows, and the generators kicked in. In the middle of the night, the water went out and there was no air conditioning either. Two teams took shifts throughout the night, with staff trying to get some sleep in when they could. Bossano took to Facebook during the endeavor in order to let parents know that their infants were okay. He wrote that they were doing "better than all of us."
Thankfully, the babies and all the members of the NICU staff weathered the storm and have emerged safely. "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," Bossano affirmed. "In a small town like this, people have to pull together. I'm proud of them." He also reported that the babies were stable. Felder added, "It's a bright spot in this horrific tragedy our community is facing." As Hurricane Laura knocked out most of the water service in Lake Charles, the main campus is yet to receive water. Therefore, the babies will now be transferred yet again to various hospitals across the state.