NY Sandy babies celebrate 1st birthdays

Updated at: 10/29/2013 5:05 PM
By VERENA DOBNIK

(AP) NEW YORK - On the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, some New York babies celebrated their first birthday _ and survival _ at a hospital where they were only hours old as the killer storm flooded the city.

"I was very nervous, and only my faith carried me through," said Emily Blatt, who delivered a premature son at New York University’s Langone Medical Center in Manhattan.

Five hours later, water inundated the hospital, cutting power and leaving patients and staff in the dark."

Blatt’s 8-hour-old baby, weighing only 2 pounds, was rushed out of intensive care down the stairs on a plastic sled, hooked up to an oxygen tank.

About 40 newborns were rescued from Langone, as were vulnerable adult patients, at the height of the storm. They were taken by ambulance to area hospitals.

On Tuesday, Blatt and her little Kenneth Hulett III were beaming in a sun-flooded room of the medical center, surrounded by other 1-year-olds.

"Happy birthday, dear babies!" parents and medical staff sang to the toddlers.

"This is the best meal of her life!" said Helen Chan as she held her daughter, Ila Paz, while the baby shoved frosting into her mouth, gleefully smearing it all over her face.

Exactly a year earlier, "it was surreal," said Chan.

Within hours of giving birth, "there was no power, no running water, and I had no idea what’s going on."

Soon came the orange sleds that carried out the baby, then her.

As Sandy surged, some women delivered by flashlight, glow sticks, even cellphone lights, said nurse Flavia Contratti.

Blatt said Tuesday that until the hospital evacuation, "I didn’t understand the strength of this storm."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)