(NEW YORK) — Nurses at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at New York University’s Langone Medical Center have challenging jobs even in the best of times. Their patients are babies, some weighing as little as two pounds, who require constant and careful care as they struggle to stay alive.
On Monday night, as Hurricane Sandy bore down on Manhattan, the nurses’ jobs took on a whole new sense of urgency as failing power forced the hospital’s patients, including the NICU nurses’ tiny charges, to evacuate.
20/20 recently reunited seven of those nurses: Claudia Roman, Nicola Zanzotta-Tagle, Margot Condon, Sandra Kyong Bradbury, Beth Largey, Annie Irace and Menchu Sanchez. The group described how they managed to do their jobs – and save the most vulnerable of lives – under near-impossible circumstances.
On Monday night, as Sandy’s wind and rain buffeted the hospital’s windows, the nurses were preparing for a shift change and the day nurses began briefing the night shift nurses. Suddenly the hospital was plunged into darkness. The respirators and monitors keeping the infants alive all went silent.
One by one, each tiny infant, swaddled in blankets and a heating pad, cradled by one nurse and surrounded by at least five others, was carried down nine flights of stairs. Security guards and secretaries pitched in, lighting the way with flashlights and cell phones.
The procession moved slowly. As nurses took their careful steps, they carefully squeezed bags of oxygen into the babies’ lungs.
With their adrenaline pumping, the nurses said, it was imperative that they stay focused.
When the medical staff and the 20 babies emerged, a line of ambulances was waiting.
The nurses would later receive praise from President Obama, who said they represented the “brightest in America.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio