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The real drama among the Sandy media storm

Amid cranky questions about why television reporters insist on standing in water, waiting to be pummelled by natural disasters, and Photoshopped storm pictures being shared and debunked at high speed along with joke memes, there were heart-wrenching stories that broke through the wall of storm news and media Monday night and Tuesday morning.

One was the evacuation of NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan after its back-up generator lost power due to flooding. Any evacuation of bedridden patients would be dramatic, but among the ill at this hospital were babies in a neonatal intensive care unit. For many of us watching and reading news of the storm as we went to sleep, this was the story we'd seek out in the morning.

CNN reported that hospital staff, medical students and emergency crews were evacuating 260 patients to waiting ambulances, carrying some of them down 15 flights of stairs, "at times with only flashlights to illuminate the way."

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The hospital usually has about 800 patients; hundreds had been discharged over the weekend in anticipation of the storm.

"Things went downhill very, very rapidly and very unexpectedly," said Dr. Andrew Brotman, senior vice-president and vice-dean for clinical affairs and strategy. "The flooding was just unprecedented."

By 1:30 a.m., CNN reports, about half the patients had been evacuated, and Brotman said he expected the evacuation would last until about 6:30 a.m.

Four of the newborns were reportedly on respirators, and each baby was carried down nine flights of stairs "while a nurse manually squeezed a bag to deliver air to the baby's lungs."

While questions will no doubt be asked about why more transfers to other hospitals in the region had not taken place, for now, many observers are just hoping for good news about the patients, especially the tiny ones.

Mommyish blogger Lindsay Cross writes about how, for her, this story had her riveted Monday night.

"Honestly, my husband and I just sat together, unable to even imagine what it would be like to have a child in the NICU at that moment. We thought of friends who spent weeks with their infants in the hospital and all the stress they were under during that time. It was just impossible to fathom how that stress and fear would multiply during a situation like that one last night in New York City."

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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