(NEW YORK) — A Long Island infant was back at NYU Langone Medical Center last week for his second heart surgery, prompting the usual jitters from his parents. But they knew it would be nothing like his first heart surgery.
William “Will” Donovan was just three weeks old when Superstorm Sandy prompted an emergency evacuation of the hospital just days after he started breathing on his own for the first time.
When Sandy hit New York City on Oct. 31, Will was one of six patients in the Congenital Cardiovascular Care Unit on the 15th floor of the hospital, said Dr. Achiau Ludomirsky, who directs pediatric cardiology at the hospital.
Will was born with a congenital heart defect: His left ventricle didn’t work, Donovan said. He needed surgery when he was three days old to compensate for the fact that his heart only had one functioning pump instead of two.
The Donovans knew Sandy was coming, but the hospital was confident of its backup electricity generators and told families to either head home early or plan on staying through the storm. They went home to their temporary apartment 10 blocks away. They live in Long Island and temporarily moved to Manhattan just before Will was born because they knew he’d need surgery right away.
Lori Touchette, the head nurse on Will’s unit, was having a semi-normal day at the Congenital Cardiovascular Care Unit. As the storm began outside, she and her colleagues made sure things were plugged in properly and that everyone had flashlights and charts printed on paper — just in case.
Then, the power went out. Although the hospital had backup generators, they were located in the basement, which flooded. The backup generators failed.
Touchette and her colleagues needed to carefully take the babies in the hospital down the dark and crowded corridors, juggling lots of IV lines and wires the whole way.
Meanwhile, Donovan had braved both the weather and an unhelpful security guard to get to the hospital, where he happened upon Touchette taking Will downstairs. They then rode in an ambulance to Mount Sinai Hospital together. Donovan still marvels at how she worked more than 30 hours that night.
Will was back at NYU Langone last week for his second surgery, prompting hugs from the staff as they marveled at how big he’s grown over the last few months. “It was a lot of fun to reunite with these people we like and care about so much,” Donovan said.
Will recovered four days after his operation and returned home to Long Island. He isn’t expected to need another surgery until he’s about 2 years old. Hopefully, the weather will be nicer.
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