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These amazing nurses saved 19 NICU babies when Hurricane Laura hit

A crew of nurses and respiratory therapists worked together to transfer the newborns to a safer building.

nicu nurses hurrican laura
Screenshot/NBC

An incredible group of nurses is sharing details of the terrifying ordeal they navigated when Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana. The staff at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women sprang into action to protect 19 NICU babies from the storm, setting the bar for what it means to go above and beyond.

The nurses told TODAY that the scariness started even before the storm hit when they had to get all 19 babies to higher ground. A crew of nurses and respiratory therapists worked together to transfer the newborns to a safer building.

If you've ever had a NICU baby hooked up to all sorts of machines and monitors, you can picture just how complicated that would be. TODAY reports that it amounted to about 300 pounds of equipment per child. One nurse shared on Facebook that it took about two hours to get all the babies resettled and that some of the staffers pulled off that feat running on no sleep.

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Hero Nurses Care For NICU Babies During Hurricane Laura | TODAY www.youtube.com

After that, a full team of nurses settled in for the night as the storm howled outside. Facing winds of up to 150 miles an hour, the nurses put mattresses up against the windows to make sure the babies wouldn't be hurt by any flying glass. "You're in the room and the windows are rattling and the building is shaking… it was a little bit disturbing," NICU director Leah Upton said.

And while the team was laser-focused on the safety of their infants, many of them had their own babies and kids at home riding out the storm. "No one wants to be separated from their families during a time like this, but my four children evacuated with my husband, so I knew that they were in safe hands," Upton said. "I just couldn't imagine what… the mothers of these babies felt during this time because their babies were here. They had to put a lot of trust in us to take care of them." That trust carried the nurses through work shifts that lasted as long as 48 hours for some.

Through it all, the nurses kept the anxious parents of those NICU babies in mind, taking to Facebook with updates. Tabitha Fawcett, mom of a 2-day-old in the NICU, said that the communication helped reassure her through the terrifying night. "Without them we wouldn't have kept our sanity. It was rough, but because of them we were able to really pull through," Fawcett said.

Thanks to the amazing nurses, everyone survived the night unscathed. And as newborns tend to do, the tiny patients just slept right through it. "The babies didn't even realize there was a storm going on," Upton said.

The pandemic has shined a massive spotlight on the heroism of nurses, but stories like this one are a reminder that these amazing caregivers are coming to the rescue every single day, no matter what kind of calamity unfolds. The hurricane has passed and someday the COVID-19 crisis will, too—but the gratitude and awe we show to those who take care of us in the hardest time should never go away.

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