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NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. Photo: <a href="">Joe Schlabotnik</a>, CC <a href="">some rights reserved</a>
NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. Photo: Joe Schlabotnik, CC some rights reserved

Sandy: At the center of the crisis

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North Country residents with family and friends in the greater New York City area have been reaching out to their loved ones in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Phil Brown, who lives in Saranac Lake and is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer news magazine, has been using Facebook to stay in touch with his daughter Becky, who was at the center of one of the biggest stories during the storm.

Becky Brown is a pediatric nurse at New York University Hospital Medical Center, which had to be evacuated Monday night after it lost power and its backup generators failed. She didn't return to her Long Island apartment until noontime Tuesday.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

As Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on New York City Monday, Becky Brown said the day passed uneventfully in the pediatric wing of NYU Medical Center, where the 26-year-old Schenectady native has worked for the past two and a half years.

“The weather started to get worse but we were OK because it was a newer building and everyone was safe,” she said.

That all started to change around 5 p.m. when an older wing of the hospital housing its pediatric and neonatal intensive care units lost power. Three hours later, the building’s backup generators failed and the hospital went dark. Brown was just finishing up a 12-hour shift.

At this point, hospital officials were making plans to evacuate, calling other hospitals around the city to see if they could take in their roughly 200 patients.  A line of ambulances began to form outside the medical center.

Brown said the most critical patients, including 20 babies in the neonatal intensive care unit on the ninth floor, were the first to be brought down. Since there was no power, they had to use the stairwells. "It took a crew of five people to bring down one tiny baby," Brown said. "One nurse was holding the baby, another person was squeezing an Ambu bag to pump oxygen to the baby, another nurse was holding the IV pump, another nurse was holding the oxygen tank. It’s pitch black. People had flashlights to light the stairway. Step by step, people were shouting 'Left foot, right foot.'”

We realized we needed to pull together and work throughout the night and we need take care of these kids.
It was 4 a.m. Tuesday by the time all the hospital's patients had been evacuated.  By that point Brown and many of her colleagues had been working for 20 hours straight. "We had all worked since eight in the morning [on Monday], but once this happened, we realized we needed to pull together and work throughout the night and we need take care of these kids," Brown said.

Brown said she doesn’t know when the hospital will be reopening and when she’ll be able to return to work.  

Her father, Phil Brown, said he tried stay in touch with Becky via Facebook and closely followed news reports of what was happening at the hospital that night.

After hearing his daughter's story firsthand Tuesday night, Brown posted on his Facebook page that she and her colleagues likely saved dozens of lives.

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