'Hero' Hospital Staffers Move Babies to Safety in 'Mini ICU on Wheels' Ahead of Hurricane Dorian
Ten babies are safe and sound in Atlanta, Georgia, after a group of hospital staffers drove to the coast to move the sick infants from Hurricane Dorian’s path the as the storm approached, PEOPLE confirms.
Three teams of drivers, respiratory nurses and respiratory therapists from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta drove to a pair of hospitals in Savannah to move vulnerable infants to the Atlanta facility as forecasters predicted the deadly hurricane would move “dangerously close” to the Georgia coast. The journeys took 12 hours total, with the teams heading out to Savannah on Monday around 3 p.m. and the last of the three vehicles returning to the Atlanta hospital on Tuesday around 8 a.m.
“These kids, they were in an intensive care unit and we were able to provide intensive care unit level of care while in a truck. So they absolutely are mini ICUs on wheels!” Rana Roberts, a registered nurse and director of trauma and transportation at the Atlanta hospital, tells PEOPLE.
“This is just what we do,” she adds. “Our teams do this with regularity and professionalism and dedication to children. When we made the phone call saying, ‘We need your support,’ the caregivers didn’t bat an eye. They’re really the hero of the situation.”
Hurricane Dorian slowly began moving toward the U.S. on Tuesday after causing “extreme destruction” in the Bahamas. Earlier this week, forecasters predicted that the large hurricane would threaten the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts. The National Hurricane Center warned Monday that it could cause “life-threatening flash floods” as it approaches the U.S., though the storm has since weakened from Category 5 to Category 2. As of Thursday at 4 p.m., Dorian was “producing dangerous winds, storm surge, and flooding across portions of the Carolinas,” the center said.
Amid the heightened alarm, two hospitals in Savannah called on the Atlanta facility to move the neonatal patients. Roberts says the hospitals were not completely evacuated and only the babies were moved. The infants had various medical needs, with one newborn requiring a high-frequency oscillating ventilator, ABC News reported.
The 18-person team traveled in specialized neonatal pediatric critical care transport ambulances.
“The transports went off without a hitch,” Roberts tells PEOPLE. “They made it back here very safely and without incident. It’s a long transport time, it’s a long time to ride in an ambulance. It speaks to the talented, dedicated professionals we have here at Children’s. They’re just excellent at what they do. They’re so committed to children.”
Roberts says the teams used trucks instead of a helicopter due to the weather. The babies are expected to be returned to the Savannah hospitals on Friday, Roberts tells PEOPLE.
“These folks just stepped up to the plate. They’re happy to have helped and they’re glad they helped,” she says of the group, noting that the hospital is often called on to make these evacuations during storm threats.
The center of the storm is expected to move into North Carolina on Thursday night and into Friday.
WATCH: Floridians, Here's What to Do If You See a Sea Turtle Washed Ashore After Hurricane Dorian
“It is serious, and it can be deadly,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference Thursday morning, NPR reported. “The message this morning is this: Get to safety and stay there. Don’t let your guard down. This won’t be a brush-by. Whether it comes ashore or not, the eye of the storm will be close enough to cause extensive damage in North Carolina.”