When the storm knocked out power at the New York University Langone Medical Center, Sanchez organized the neonatal intensive care nurses and doctors to safely carry twenty critically ill babies down nine flights of stairs -- in the dark, with only the light of their cell phones -- to the care of other hospitals:
Sanchez was working her usual night shift on Oct. 29 when Sandy knocked out power to the hospital, triggering backup generators to kick on about 6 p.m. Two hours later, the East River flooded the generators, plunging the medical center into darkness. That’s when the crisis really began: The nurses knew that in four hours, the ventilators keeping the fragile newborns alive would stop working.Saving babies while flood waters destroyed her own home? She's a hero. Catch a glimpse of her tonight in one of the House gallery, among other guests of honor during the State of the Union address. More here: Victims of gun violence, others to be among Obama's guests for State of the Union address.
“We knew immediately we had to get the babies downstairs,” Sanchez said. “With the elevators out, we didn’t have a lot of choices."
Four of the 20 babies were in critical condition and hooked up to ventilators. Alarms were beeping while vital monitors were eerily silent. Each nurse ran to a different infant to make sure lifesaving equipment continued to function.
After a quick discussion, Sanchez said, she grabbed an infant who had recently undergone surgery and weighed less than a pound. She cradled the newborn in her left arm while others pumped oxygen and carried monitors and IV bags.
They made their way down the nine flights of stairs in unison, saying “step, step, step.” One nurse walked backward to prevent anyone from falling forward with the infant. Several groups of nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists repeated the trip over and over again, until each of the babies had been transported to another hospital.