Premature Infants Find Care in Lafayette

Some of the storm's youngest victims are now being treated at Lafayette General Medical Center. The hospital has taken in eight premature babies and their parents. Silvia Oats, nurse administrator, sets the scene for Debbie Elliott.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Some of the patients who were evacuated from the city earlier this week were sent to hospitals all over the South. Lafayette General Medical Center, which is two hours northwest of New Orleans, is caring for about 40 of the acutely ill right now. New patients are still arriving. We turn now to the hospital's nurse administrator, Sylvia Oats.

Thanks for being with us.

Ms. SYLVIA OATS (Lafayette General Medical Center): You're welcome.

ELLIOTT: I understand that you all have been taking some very tiny refugees from the storm.

Ms. OATS: We have. We've received about eight babies, and not only have we received the babies, but we've received the babies' mamas and daddies as well as the nurses taking care of these babies.

ELLIOTT: Tell me a little bit about what condition they came in.

Ms. OATS: Well, they were in neonatal ICUs in New Orleans but, of course, they had no power for several days, so conditions were pretty tough. In an NICU, power is very, very critical. The oxygen requirements as well as, you know, just normal vital sign taking as well as medications are administered on IV pumps usually that are electrical. They really had a committed nursing staff, though. The nurses actually brought the babies to us themselves and wanted to stay, and some of our staff are housing those nurses, and the nurses are gonna actually be put on temporary staff at our hospital to further care for the babies, along with our staff.

ELLIOTT: There must be a special connection between a neonatal nurse and a preterm baby for the nurses to have come along with these families.

Ms. OATS: Oh, absolutely. The nurses that take care of NICU babies generally have the babies in their care for months, so they become sort of like part of their family, if you will, you know. And they are so helpless, they need everything. So I think that's fair to say that NICU nurses do have a very, very special bond with their little patients.

ELLIOTT: What kind of problems do these babies have that landed them in ICU?

Ms. OATS: They're all preterm infants. They're all, you know, 25- to 28-week babies who need, you know, total supportive care. Some of them are on ventilators.

ELLIOTT: What was it like to know that there were these really small, helpless babies trapped in the situation in New Orleans?

Ms. OATS: Oh, Debbie, it just drove our NICU nurses crazy. They really pushed to get these transfers in. They had heard that Children's Hospital in New Orleans was trying to evacuate and couldn't get the babies out, and we spent an entire day trying to get somebody to go get these babies for us, and it was getting dark in the day, and we were able to get an ambulance transport company who had some units in New Orleans to bring them over. The staff was very desperate to take care of these babies. They're working double shifts, triple shifts, just whatever it takes, and they're even housing not only the nurses that are working with them from New Orleans, but they're also housing the parents of the babies as well.

ELLIOTT: How are they doing?

Ms. OATS: They're doing OK. They are all stable at this point, and we're hoping for the best with all of them.

ELLIOTT: Sylvia Oats is a nurse administrator at Lafayette General Hospital.

Thank you so much for speaking with us.

Ms. OATS: You're welcome.

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