New York's Bellevue Hospital Center experienced its longest half-hour ever and added another chapter to its storied history as a result of the blackout of 2003.
Bellevue has seven emergency generators, but when the power failed at 4: 10 p.m. Aug. 14, three were already running at full load as part of the New York power authority's "peak load" program, says James Saunders, a Bellevue spokesman. To make a long story short, a perfect storm caused by overheated generators resulted in the total loss of power at about 10 p.m., which lasted another half-hour.
Though most ventilators in the intensive-care units switched to emergency backup battery power, one backup power source failed. As a result, nurses and respiratory therapists took 10-minute turns manually ventilating the patient while others held flashlights and monitored the patient's vital signs. Five other ventilator patients had to be moved to other ICUs, requiring the nurses also to manually ventilate them during transport in total darkness until the ventilators could be plugged into emergency outlets.
In perhaps the most heartwarming story of the half-hour, the nursing staff on the eighth-floor neonatal ICU saved the life of a 77-day-old baby who had been born 15 weeks prematurely. When the power went off, the baby, who weighed 1 pound, 7 ounces at birth, was on a breathing tube. Nine nurses and a physician's assistant rushed to coordinate their efforts to manually ventilate the infant and monitor its vital signs while focusing a flashlight on the proceedings.
The nursing staff represented the hospital at a City Hall ceremony last week in which a variety of New Yorkers were honored for their heroism in the dark. The Bellevue nurses "helped save one of the smallest New Yorkers," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
It's one thing to have houseguests for a few weeks. Six months is an entirely different story.
Officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center were contemplating that difference when producers from New York Times Television asked late last year to film a reality show about resident physicians at the Nashville hospital.
The production company had shot episodes of two other reality programs-"Trauma: Life in the ER" and "Maternity Ward"-at Vanderbilt, so hospital officials were comfortable with the people behind the new show, "Resident Life," says John Howser, a spokesman for the medical center. But a six-month filming schedule involving as many as 100 of the hospital's 700 residents prompted six or seven meetings before officials gave the program the green light, Howser says.
"Resident Life" will appear on cable's The Learning Channel, starting Sept. 8. The footage for the 13 episodes was shot between late January and mid-July, Howser says, so it's sort of "a last hurrah for the longer work hours" for residents, given that a maximum 80-hour workweek went into effect July 1.
The cameras captured parts of Vanderbilt rarely shown, such as psychiatric counseling sessions and a pathology resident conducting an autopsy, Howser says. The trick was to make the show "educational, entertaining and HIPAA-compliant," he says. (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, he adds, killed "Trauma: Life in the ER," which won't be aired because most lawyers believe the regulations require consent before taping. The program almost always received consent after the fact, Howser says.)
Vanderbilt officials, of course, see "Resident Life" as good public relations and perhaps even better recruiting. "We hope the medical students will see this show," Howser says, "and say, `Hey, that's where I'd like to do my residency.' "
A VA protest on choppers
A group of veterans revved up their engines and rumbled through President Bush's hometown of Crawford, Texas, earlier this month to protest a recommendation to close the Veteran Affairs hospital in nearby Waco, Texas.
The closing is part of a planned reorganization of the VA system. Six other facilities are set to be closed to save money and provide more efficient care throughout the giant system, officials have said.
The veterans and other supporters jammed Highway 6 with more than 100 motorcycles and about 280 cars in an attempt to send a message to Bush, who was vacationing at his ranch. They carried placards that read, "Don't Bush Whack the Waco VA."
The Waco facility specializes in psychiatric care and treats more than 17,000 patients. It has more than 800 employees.
John Robertson, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, said he had moved to Waco in 1998 to be near the hospital, and that he may have to move again if it closes.
"I sacrificed my mind and my body for the freedom of this country, and one more time I'm being asked to sacrifice," Robertson, a post-traumatic stress disorder patient at the hospital, told the Waco Tribune-Herald.
"A nation that wants to be first in war and first in peace cannot afford to treat its veterans like second-class citizens," says U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, a Democrat who represents Waco.
The motorcade had to travel through Crawford because it did not have a permit to stop in the town. But it was greeted by about 40 people holding American flags and cheering.
There was no word on whether the president knew the protest was taking place.