Coltono Prata was born early, during the peak of Hurricane Sandy at NYU Langone Medical Center. But the surprise of his premature arrival was mild compared to the drama about to unfold just hours later, when the hospital’s generators failed and plunged NYU Langone into darkness, halting the elevators and forcing the newborn’s evacuation by flashlight down 13 flights of darkened stairs and into a waiting ambulance.
Along with his parents, Colton was rushed to the Lenox Hill Hospital (LHH) Emergency Department, two of 86 NYU Langone evacuees to arrive over a six hour period.
Lenox Hill began preparations to receive patients the preceding week, well in advance of the storm. "Thirteen Staten Island University Hospital patients were transferred to us, and we put the Emergency Department triage system that we used during Hurricane Irene into place," said Carleigh Gustafson, RN, director of Nursing for the Emergency Department.
The situation intensified Monday night when Lenox Hill Hospital learned of NYU Langone’s evacuation. With little advance information about the patients who were coming, the ED staff watched the lobby TV, hoping to get a sense of the types of patients they might soon receive. "We saw the babies first, with NYU nurses trying to do 'skin to skin,' said Providencia Monchek, RN, director, Maternal Child Health and Psychiatry at LHH. Within a short time, babies started arriving in the LHH ED – eight, including baby Colton, with four assigned to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. "We were so relieved when we got to Lenox Hill. The reception at Lenox Hill was great, they were all waiting for us and I made a joke that they were taking in all the NYU refugees," said Colton’s mother, Margaret Chu.
"In the three hours between 3am and 6am, 52 of the 86 NYU Langone evacuees arrived – one every three to four minutes" said Tara Director, MD, associate medical director of the LHH Emergency Department. A nurse greeted each patient, held their hand, welcomed them and assured them that they were now safe and would be well cared for.
"You could actually see their faces change as they began to relax," said Joan Gershen, Associate Executive Director at Lenox Hill. Teams verified identification and credentials of the NYU nurses who planned to accompany their patients into the hospital. Intake consisted of triage teams to assess and stabilize; assignment of beds and medication orders; assembling critical care teams; night hospitalists and house staff writing admission orders, and cardiac procedure nurses accompanying patients to their rooms. "It was TeamStepps at its best, with everyone watching out for their team members," said Donna Tanzi, RN, director of Nursing Education and Professional Development.
By Tuesday, Colton was asleep in his mother’s arms, oblivious to his extraordinary adventure the day before. The family returned to their home the following weekend, just a few hours after the electricity was restored. "Now everything is back to normal said Ms. Chu. "Colton is a sweet baby and is doing really well. It kind of reminds you that when people pull together in a city like New York, amazing things can happen. We feel very blessed and very grateful have received such great medical care."