Premature infant rescued during Sandy evacuation is thriving

(CBS News) When Superstorm Sandy slammed into the northeast a year ago, The New York University Langone Medical Center suffered a major blow as the basement filled with water and the hospital's backup generators failed.

CBS News' chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook is affiliated with that hospital and was there the night of the storm. He saw doctors and nurses using sleds to move patients down dark staircases and into ambulances to be evacuated.

During the evacuation, LaPook met the Shepherd family and their baby, Jackson, who was one of the 20 vulnerable newborns evacuated from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Jo-An Tremblay-Shepherd and her son were on 9th floor of the hospital when the storm hit Manhattan. The baby was born premature at 27 weeks and for two months had relied on machines to help keep him alive.

"We saw some flickering at some point and that's when the generator kicked in," said Tremblay-Shepherd. "Shortly after that the power went off completely and all of the monitors - everything just went."

When the lights went out and respirators stopped pumping, doctors and nurses started the complex evacuation of 20 fragile newborns down nine flights of stairs.

"By the time it was time for Jackson to go, we had to go at the drop of a hat," said Tremblay-Shepherd.

Jackson was the last one out. With the help of a flashlight, a nurse carefully carried the baby and his oxygen tank down the stairs. LaPook said that he met the family then, in the lobby of the hospital.

LaPook said he could see the look of a "mother who was determined" in Tremblay-Shepherd's eyes and that she was in "protective mother mode."

"I just wanted to get out. You know," Tremblay-Shepherd said. "If we were going to evacuate, I was like 'Let's do this.'"

Mother and son were helped into an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital where he stayed for a few more weeks before going home.

A year later, the Shepherds are weathering a very different, joyful, kind of storm.

Jackson, now 14 months old, took his first steps last week and there's a new member of the family. His sister Roxanne was born in August, at the same hospital they were evacuated from one year ago.

LaPook asked Tremblay-Shepherd and her husband Andy if they had any misgivings about going back to the same place.

"No," said Tremblay-Shepherd. "We checked the weather forecast though."

"For all the bad there was, and for all the effort and the difficulty we went through, the reality is there are some really great people there," said her husband. "Its times like that you see how amazingly trained and diligent and caring some people can be - and that's phenomenal."

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