These NICU nurses in a Louisiana hospital are being hailed as heroes for their selflessness in protecting their patients amid a hurricane.
On August 20, Hurricane Laura—one of the strongest storms of the century—ravaged the state of Louisiana. It made landfall as a Category 4 storm, carrying winds of up to 150 mph. The National Hurricane Center predicted 20 feet of storm surge that would be “unsurvivable” in many areas.
As terrifying winds hit the state with mighty force, many residents evacuated their homes in preparation for the worst of the storm. Meanwhile, a group of dedicated nurses at the Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women knew they couldn’t do the same, for the 19 babies in their NICU needed them now more than ever. Many of the nurses’ families and the babies’ parents had already left their homes, but the medical staff stayed behind to ensure the infants remained safe.
Dr. Juan Bossano and a team of 14 nurses, two neonatal nurse practitioners, and three respiratory therapists rode out the night in 12-hour shifts to watch over the babies, some of whom only weighed a pound or two.
There was a threat of flooding from the hurricane, so they were forced to evacuate their building and transfer to the main center across town. Despite the scary situation outside, the NICU team delivered.
“We had 19 NICU babies with four on ventilators, some of them very sick, and we were out in two hours. I have never seen something work so quick and so smooth for something that was unexpected,” Alesha Alford, the Vice President and Administrator of Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women, said.
The relocation was made possible with the united effort of doctors, residents, the sheriff’s department, and others who helped with the babies’ transportation. All their specialized equipment, such as respirators and incubators, also had to be transferred along with the infants.
“No one wants to be separated from their family during a time like this, but my four children evacuated with my husband, so I knew that they were in safe hands,” NICU director Leah Upton told TODAY. “I just couldn’t imagine what the mothers of these babies felt during this time because their babies were here. They had to put a lot of trust in us to take care of them.”
Once they were in the main center, the staff focused on making it through the night. Outside, the winds were incredibly strong, so they put mattresses against the windows to protect the babies from any shattering glass. Water leaked through the hospital windows, and the generators kicked in at around 10:30 PM. The water and air conditioning also both went out during the middle of the night. To ensure the babies were safe, two groups took shifts throughout the night.
“You’re in the room and the windows are rattling and the building is shaking,” Upton recalled. “It was a little bit disturbing, frightening.”
One of the nurses had a playlist of praise and worship songs, and they just let it play to get some calm and peace of mind amid the storm. The staff also tried to get in some sleep whenever they could. Meanwhile, Dr. Bossano made periodic updates on Facebook to reassure the parents that their babies are doing fine.
Thankfully, all the babies and the NICU staff made it through the night. About 48 hours after the storm began, the nurses were finally able to go home. Dr. Bossano couldn’t praise them enough for all they’ve done.
“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,” he said. “In a small town like this, people have to pull together. I’m proud of them.”
Hurricane Laura damaged the hospital’s water supply, so the babies were again moved to other facilities in the state. Fortunately, all of them were able to weather the storm.
“They did very well, probably better than us,” nurse practitioner Krissy Morris said. “They slept through the whole thing. We maintained their equipment, their respiratory stuff they needed, and they did fine.”
Kudos to these brave medical staff! Share this story to recognize their heroic efforts in keeping the babies safe and warm amid the disastrous hurricane.