‘Protect our babies:’ Hospital cares for babies in hurricane

A airplane hangar is destroyed Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, after Hurricane Laura went through the area near Lake Charles, La. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A airplane hangar is destroyed Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, after Hurricane Laura went through the area near Lake Charles, La. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

As the wind howled and the rain slammed down, a team of nurses, respiratory therapists and a doctor worked through the night to care for 19 tiny babies as Hurricane Laura slammed southwestern Louisiana.

The babies, some on ventilators or eating through a feeding tube, seemed to weather the storm just fine, said Dr. Juan Bossano, the medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women.

“They did very well. They tolerated it very well. We had a very good day,” he said.

Laura made landfall early Thursday morning as a Category 4 storm, packing top winds of 150 mph (241 kph), and pushing a storm surge as high as 15 feet in some areas.

Hours before it made landfall, officials had to move the babies from the women’s hospital to the main hospital in the system after it became clear that storm surge could inundate the women’s hospital, located on the southern end of Lake Charles. The hospital has its own generator and hospital administrator Alesha Alford said it was built to withstand hurricane force winds. But in the single story facility, there's no room to move up and storm surge in that area was expected to hit nine feet.

In a roughly two-hour operation the babies in the intensive care unit were transferred by ambulance to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, a ten-story facility on the northern side of the city. Trucks carried needed equipment such as incubators.

Alford said the storm hadn’t yet hit but “the skies looked very ominous.” She said everyone pitched in to get supplies moved to the other hospital.

“It went as smooth as could be because we had everyone helping,” she said.