By NADIRA FOSTER-WILLIAMS
Houses deluged in sea water; trees split in two down to their roots; street poles floating in water.
Such images suffused memories of Hurricane Sandy as it devastated low-lying areas of all five borough one year ago.
But, for Jennifer Kelly, 35, the day Sandy rocked the tri-state metropolis prompts a happier memory: the birth of her son, William at NYU Langone Medical Center on the East Side of Manhattan.
The hospital on Tuesday staged a reunion of children who were born and other children who were treated that night and their families.
“On October 29, at 35 weeks pregnant,” said Kelly “I was working on my computer-as one would be in a hurricane. I stood up at 5:30 p.m. and my water broke.”
Kelly and her husband quickly called her doctor, who told her to get to any hospital before the bridges were to close at 7 p.m. Kelly refused to go before she shaved her legs, thinking only of her doctor’s reaction during her delivery. “There was no way I was giving birth to this baby with hairy legs,” she added, laughing.
Kelly’s parents zoomed over the bridge from Manhattan to transport Kelly, a Brooklyn resident, to Brooklyn Hospital. They were the last car allowed into the Queens-Midtown Tunnel so they were directed to Langone, arriving just as the lights went out.
Tamar Weinstock, 33, was in labor with her first child when the hospital went black, with medical staff laboring in the dark, hovering over her with portable lights powered by generators.
Langone backup power system failed due to what officials called “a higher than expected storm surge,” causing the evacuation of patients to local hospitals. The hospital did not re-open until early January.
Weinstock didn’t thin giving birth under such circumstances was a big deal.
“People have given birth with a lot less technology around them, so we weren’t worried,” she said, “We just trying to enjoy it like any other pregnancy,” she added, spooning a parfait into the grunting mouth of her one-year-old son, Stone.
He is Weinstock’s first child.
“There was natural light,” she continued, “but we were instructed to keep blinds closed as a precaution in case glass or something blew in.” The storm swelled outside and inside the hospital. Following Weinstock’s delivery via c-section, the hospital was evacuated in the dark.
Jeremy Donovan, 33, was home with his wife and one-year-old daughter when they received a call from Donovan’s sister at the hospital where his 3-week-old son William, recovering from major heart surgery, was being evacuated. After calling the hospital and visiting the website with n success, he realized something was wrong.
Donovan suited up and walked 15 blocks in the storm to the medical center, on barren city blocks that bustled just a day before. “It was amazing, impressive, and terrifying- everything you’d think it would be,” he said.
“I got to the hospital and they wouldn’t let me in-they just weren’t budging. After 2 hours of pleading, a doctor came out to show me where William was.”
“We ran up 15 flights of stairs, he remembers, bouncing his son on his hip,”got to the top and the generators just blew-the doctor had to take care of it, so at this point I’m on my own.
“I turn to go back down the stair and a staff of nurses and I connected at the top of the steps, they had my son. After 10 seconds of reconciliation, we were like, ‘Okay-let’s do this.’ It was the fastest drive to Mount Sinai.”
Weinstock was carried downstairs illuminated by medical students wielding flashlights as she directed her husband from a sled. “Make sure you see him at all times,” she said of baby Stone, who was only allowed to be held by a nurse as they descended into the lobby of the hospital.
“He was one month early,” she said, looking at Stone fondly, “And come rain or storm, or whatever-he was coming. He is still like that to this day. When he is ready for something, or done with something; he is.”
Kelly’s pregnancy, while not painful, proved to be difficult. By the time the evacuation began, her baby’s heart rate was slowing.
“I had four miscarriages before this pregnancy-so this baby, while all babies are important- was everything.”
“Nurse Flavia Contratti was amazing- I will never forget that she high-fived me on my way out of the hospital,” Kelly recalled.
“I was driven to Mount Sinai by two EMT’s who had been flown in by FEMA from California. My doctor drove in the next day and delivered my baby,” she said, smiling to herself, “I brought my baby home the day of my birthday. He is the most amazing gift.”
Pictured: (from left to right) Asst. Nurse Manager Julema Roman, family member, Jennifer and William Kelly, Nurse Manager Flavia Contratti