Alexian Brothers Women and Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates went dark early Friday in a power outage that forced the precarious move of premature babies to other facilities.
Without working elevators, responders carried infants from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit -- some weighing under a couple of pounds -- down five flights of stairs with only flashlights guiding them.
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"The building was completely dark, and I just had this unsettling feeling," the unit's director, Korina Sanchez, said. "All I could think about was the patients and the families and the staff that I knew were working so hard to ensure that everyone remained safe."
The St. Alexius Medical Center campus and surrounding neighborhoods lost power about 6 p.m. Thursday, spokesman Matt Wakely said.
Emergency generators began to supply electricity, but one servicing the Women and Children's Hospital, a new $125 million facility that debuted on the campus last year, broke down about 2 a.m. Friday, Wakely said.
As a result of the outage, less than a dozen patients were successfully transported to the Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village and nearby area hospitals early Friday. Other vulnerable patients were moved to areas of the St. Alexius campus with power.
Women and Children's recruited additional doctors, nurses and paramedics for the delicate task of moving patients.
To keep the infants warm, hospital staff wrapped babies in heated mattresses and blankets. Four and five person teams per baby carried their equipment and used portable devices to manually deliver oxygen for the tiniest patients, who rely on ventilators to breathe.
Seven babies were relocated to the campus' pediatric emergency department, and, by 5 a.m., returned to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after ComEd restored full power. A handful of women seeking care in the labor and delivery ward also were moved.
The blackout caused no changes in their conditions, the hospital reported.
"We just had this overwhelming feeling of gratefulness to know that the babies were safe," Sanchez said.
Meanwhile, repairs to the faulty generator were made Friday morning. After running for more than seven hours, the generator lost fuel, Vice President of Facilities and Construction Mary Ann Magnifico said. By 4 a.m., crews had fixed an issue with one of the valves in a system that pumps fuel from an underground reserve tank through a series of tanks to the generator, Magnifico said.
"Obviously, this is a huge deal for a hospital, so everyone was called," she said.
As a precaution, the hospital has secured a backup generator.
Alexian Brothers Health System unveiled the 210,000-square-foot building in April. Months of planning and rehearsals preceded a transfer of premature and underweight babies into the new hospital.
Sanchez credited those preparations for the smooth transport Friday.
"We just went into auto-mode again," she said.