Superstorm Sandy Baby Doing Well 1 Year Later

PHOTO:  Will Donovan was three weeks old when Superstorm Sandy hit and he was evacuated from NYU Langone Medical Center.
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A Long Island infant celebrated his first birthday a few weeks ago, but there's another anniversary that his family won't soon forget: superstorm Sandy.

William "Will" Donovan was 3 weeks old when superstorm Sandy prompted an emergency evacuation of the hospital days after he started breathing on his own for the first time.

"It's really something to look back on and celebrate," said Will's father, Jeremy Donovan. "At this point, it's more of a celebratory memory than a stressful one. At that time, it was obviously only a stressful one."

The evacuation that night would take hours and prompt Donovan to run 10 blocks to the hospital during the storm, argue with a security guard for 30 minutes, lose said argument, wait two hours outside the hospital, and run up 15 flights of stairs before he found Will and accompanied the team carrying him back down the stairs and to Mount Sinai Medical Center farther uptown.

"Of course, it was really only hard for me," Donovan continued, chuckling a little. "My wife slept through it. Will slept through it."

Read about Superstorm Sandy's tiniest survivors: embryos trapped in a flooded fertility clinic.

Will was born with a congenital heart defect: His left ventricle didn't work, Donovan said. He needed surgery when he was 3 days old to compensate for the fact that his heart had only one functioning pump instead of two, Donovan said.

When Sandy hit New York City on Oct. 31, Will was one of six patients in the Congenital Cardiovascular Care Unit on the 15th floor of the hospital, said Dr. Achiau Ludomirsky, who directs pediatric cardiology at the hospital. They were all between the ages of 5 days and 3 years old, and four of them had been on ventilators the week before, including Will.

But by the day of the storm, most of the babies were breathing on their own. Will stopped needing a ventilator about a week earlier.

"He was just getting to a point where he was wireless, as it were," Donovan said. "He was much more portable at a time where he needed to be, so it worked out very well."

The Donovans knew Sandy was coming, but the hospital was confident of its backup electricity generators and told families to either head home early or plan to stay through the storm. They went home to their temporary apartment 10 blocks away. They live on Long Island and temporarily moved to Manhattan just before Will was born, because they knew he'd need surgery right away.

Meanwhile, at the hospital, Lori Touchette, the head nurse on Will's unit, was having a semi-normal day at the Congenital Cardiovascular Care Unit. As the storm began outside, she and her colleagues made sure things were plugged in properly and that everyone had flashlights and charts printed on paper, just in case.

"It all happened around the shift change at 8 p.m.," Touchette said. "Someone had told us coming from the outside that First Avenue was flooded."

Aware of the pouring rain, gusting winds and surging East River, the day shift nurses stayed at the hospital even though the night nurses were coming in to replace them. Touchette had double her usual staff.

See photos showing superstorm Sandy's Wide Swath of Destruction

Then, the power went out. Although the hospital had backup generators, they were located in the basement, which flooded. The backup generators failed.

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