Last night, when nature’s swirling toilet descended on the Northeast, millions of people lost power (including huge swaths of NYC, a fact which devastated future Republican Vice Presidential nominee Ryan Lochte, when he herd [sic] about it).

When you’re just a relatively responsibility-less citydweller, a power outage doesn’t change from annoying to dangerous until a few days have passed. But when you’re a major city hospital housing hundreds of patients, some of whom rely on respirators to breathe, losing electricity is serious business after only a few seconds.

According to CNN, NYU hospital — like most of New York City, thanks to all the Irene wolf crying last year — didn’t anticipate just how serious the storm would be. Emergency generators failed two hours after the rest of lower Manhattan lost power, leaving the huge hospital without elevators and needing to get all 260-odd patients out pronto. When the hospital’s backup generators failed, 1000 first responders and hospital staff acted in a way that, pardon my French, was hurricanefuckingly heroic. Here’s a firsthand account from CBS’s Jonathan LaPook, who was there during the evacuation,

The stakes could not have been higher. When I arrived shortly before midnight yesterday, the lobby was filled with doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and a command team of medical center personnel headed by Dr. Robert Grossman, the Dean and CEO of the medical center. They were all racing against time to try to transfer approximately 200 patients out of the Tisch Building. That included 20 newborns – four with breathing tubes – in the intensive care unit, or ICU. Those infants were swaddled in blankets and carefully carried with intravenous lines, oxygen, and monitoring devices attached. I saw a 29-week-old premature being held by a nurse who held an oxygen mask to his face. Anxious faces of parents and family members dotted the lobby.

Patients were carried down 15 flights of stairs to waiting ambulances. The 20 babies in the neonatal intensive care unit were each carried down 9 stories by nurses who manually squeezed breathing bags the whole way. In the picture we posted, the woman you see is an NYU nurse standing in a hurricane, shielding an NIU infant waiting to be transferred to another area hospital after helping it breathe with her hands as she carried it down 9 flights of stairs. Badass.

Subways are still flooded and millions are still without power, but men and women like this anonymous NYU nurse kept the Hurricane Sandy disaster from turning into a tragedy for the evacuated hospital patients. And their families.

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