Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Sandy Miracle!

Hurricane Sandy miracle! Brooklyn woman goes into labor just as superstorm blasts New York and delivers healthy baby boy

Julia Alemany’s road to motherhood on Tuesday included an epidural by flashlight, an anxious escape down eight flights of stairs and a harrowing trip in an ambulance that was struck by a tree branch in the storm.

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Noah Alemany-Markus, father Doran Alemany-Markus, Julia Alemany and baby Micah Alemany-Markus.


Noah Alemany-Markus, father Doran Alemany-Markus, Julia Alemany and baby Micah Alemany-Markus.

Julia Alemany’s road to motherhood on Tuesday included an epidural by flashlight, an anxious escape down eight flights of stairs and a harrowing trip in an ambulance that was struck by a tree branch in the storm.

The 34 year old researcher from Greenpoint, Brooklyn had done her best to prepare for the birth of her second child.
She and her husband, Doron Markus, 41, were staying in an apartment near NYU ahead of her due date on Saturday but when her contractions began at 6 p.m Monday as Sandy bore down on the city, she could not have prepared for what would happen next.

A doctor at NYU’s eighth floor maternity ward initially said her contractions were too far apart and tried to send her home, but Alemany refused to budge.

“Are you kidding?” she recalled saying. “Do you see what’s going on outside?” The doctor agreed to admit her.

Then, around 9 p.m., the hospital went dark – and things got worse.

“Suddenly, I hear a lot of commotion outside and the word ‘Fire!’” Alemany told The Daily News Tuesday. “There was smoke at the end of the corridor, everyone was running.”

But contractions were ripping through her body. “I said ‘I can’t run!’”

The fire turned out to be a false alarm, but the chaos had only just begun.

Hospital administrators discovered that their backup generators were submerged in water in the basement and the building was no longer safe.

She was told she’d have to evacuate, but begged for pain relief until doctors agreed to give her a low-dose epidural.

In her pitch-black hospital room, an anesthesiologist administered the drug into her spine by flashlight and the glow of a couple of cell phones as labor pains wracked her body.

She was still in pain as three burly security guards put her on a sled and hustled her down eight flights of stairs, flashlights leading their way. Some had headlamps, making them look more like coalminers than medical staff, but the staff were kind and encouraging, she said.

“They must have asked me if I was OK 20 million times,” Alemany said.

Alemany was among 215 patients who were evacuated. Ten were expectant moms who were hauled from NYU but she was one of only two who were in active labor and the contractions were becoming more than she could bear, she said.

As she and her husband were loaded into an ambulance with an NYU nurse, the epidural was starting to wear off. Then she heard a question from her driver that was the last thing she wanted to hear:
“Do you know how to get to Mt. Sinai?”

The driver of the ambulance was a FEMA employee from California who had just arrived to help during the storm.

The nurse was able to instruct the driver, but the ambulance still had to navigate storm-ravaged streets as the rain and wind pounded the city.  Maddeningly, cops diverted the ambulance several times as it made its way north. A tree branch even fell on the vehicle.

“I hope you don’t have this baby in the ambulance!” Alemany recalled the nurse telling her.

At midnight, Alemany, originally from Barcelona, arrived at the hospital. Her obstetrician, Dr. John Wirth, was able to wrangle a taxi and race to Mt. Sinai in time. Forty minutes after she arrived at Mt. Sinai, little Micah Alemany-Markus finally appeared at 12:48 a.m., weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces.

“I was just so happy when I saw him, and he was safe,” said Alemany of her day-old son. “There were a couple of times I was so afraid.”

As she held her tiny boy in her Mt. Sinai hospital bed Tuesday afternoon, she seemed relieved.

“I never thought his birth would be anything like this,” she said, beaming. "It was the most intense experience of my life."

All of the 215 patients evacuated safely with 58 landing at Mt. Sinai. The rest were taken to other hospitals.

"We drill and prepare for these emergencies, and when it came, it paid off,” said Dr. Michael Bordman, chief of obstetrics at Mount Sinai said. “We were ready.”

Alemany’s husband, an assistant principal in Edgemont school district, praised the NYU staff who kept their cool under extreme circumstances.

“In spite of chaos they were really able to make us feel calm,” Markus said. “Their doctors were incredible.”

President Obama agreed, calling out the NYU nurses and other selfless heroes during the storm as “the brightest in America.”

“That kind of spirit of resilience and strength, but most importantly looking out for one another — that's why we always bounce back form these kinds of disasters," Obama said.

Indeed, the challenges continue to mount.

While young Micah was being welcomed into the world, years of scientific research at NYU Hospital's Smilow building were lost to the ages.

When power was lost, many precious reagents -- special enzymes, antibodies, DNA strands -- generated by scientists and stored in special hospital equipment were likely destroyed, a researcher told
the Daily News.

Even more alarming, thousands of mice that are used by scientists for cancer research and other experiments, drowned during a flood. A source told the News that many of these mice are genetically modified for certain research and took years to produce. It will likely set back several scientists' work by years, the source said.

"This does not equate to a loss of life, but it is extremely disheartening to see years of research go down the drain," the source said.

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World's Most Haunted Forests


England’s Wychwood Forest abounds in haunted tales of visitors who feel hands reaching out to touch their shoulders or hear the thunder of invisible horses.
It’s enough to make your spine tingle at the slightest rustle in the leaves. But for every traveler who shies away, there’s another intrigued by that kind of mystery—and the thrill that comes with going deep into the haunted woods. It’s a chance to be an explorer, and any brush with the supernatural makes you feel all the more alive.  
“We’re curious and try to find explanations for phenomena we can’t comprehend,” explains Jane Pyle, a member of North Carolina’s Chatham County Historical Association. Local lore has it that there’s a mysterious 40-foot ring within the woods where the devil stomps in circles at night.
“One of the first mentions of the Devil’s Tramping Ground shows up in issue 27 of the long-gone Messenger weekly newspaper,” Pyle says, “and again in a 1949 book, wherein the author, John Harden, speculates that it was created by a geological survey team—but if so, they were off the course.”
The dense Aokigahara forest at the northwest base of Japan’s Mount Fuji has its own disorienting power. It’s rumored that large underground iron deposits interfere with compasses, setting walkers forth on the wrong paths. The forest has witnessed hundreds of suicides and is haunted by their screams.
Strange ambient noises and the appearance of orbs have also been reported in a Maine forest near ripped-up railroad tracks that once ushered veterans to a hospital. Sure, it’s easy to scoff. For all the gadgets floating around—motion detectors, electromagnetic field meters, air ion counters—definitive proof of the paranormal is elusive.
But the rumors do persist and have since well before the Grimm Brothers set their fairy tales in Germany’s Black Forest. To you skeptics, we’ll just say this: why not pack up the camping equipment, grab a flashlight, and set up near one of these spooky forests. We dare you.

Haiti: What is needed is money, not stuff

Haiti: Help with money, not stuff

After every major disaster, misguided donations actually worsen the suffering.

A injured child receives medical treatment on Jan. 13, 2010 after an earthquake had devastated Port-au-Prince the day before. The 7.0 magnitude quake rocked Haiti, killing possibly thousands of people as it toppled the presidential palace and hillside shanties alike and leaving the poor Caribbean nation appealing for international help. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
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BOSTON — The images emerging from Haiti’s massive earthquake are gut-wrenching. As usual in such disasters, Americans are responding generously. Millions of dollars will be raised.
If you’re considering doing your part, that’s great. But, experts say, whatever you do, don’t donate anything but money. Under no circumstances should you mail care packages, toys, food or clothes. Don’t even think about sending drugs. The response to prior disasters shows that regardless of your intentions, you will only be making matters worse.
That’s what happened in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami. The disaster was followed by an unprecedented outpouring of global generosity. This dramatically facilitated the grisly chore of cleaning up the tens of thousands of bodies left under the tropical sun, and it funded a reconstruction effort that, while far from perfect, provided roofs over the heads of many.
But aid workers joked that the real tsunami was followed by another tsunami — of misguided goodwill. In an effort to help, people shipped boxes, often following the instructions of local television news programs. And so in Aceh, Indonesia amid the trauma, hunger and devastation, care packages piled up containing everything from pajamas and teddy bears to birth control pills and Bibles — a hodgepodge impossible to sort through. There were boxes filled with half-used ointments and prescription drugs, as if do-gooders had cleaned out their medicine cabinets. And some unscrupulous corporations — exploiting tax write-offs for soon-to-be-expired pharmaceuticals — apparently shipped whatever had been lying around the warehouse for too long.
Boxes of supplies sent after the 2004 tsunami.(Courtesy Pharmaciens Sans Frontiers)
It all amounted to a mountain of materials that confounded the efforts of the pros, and made it more difficult to deliver essential supplies on the earthquake-ravaged roads.
Months after the aftershocks stopped, the French aid organization Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres (Pharmacists Without Borders) conducted a study of that second tsunami. In a world where most people lack adequate access to medicine, the results were a travesty.
The group found that although officials didn’t request any medicine, they received 4,000 metric tons of it, or more than 4 pounds for each person in the tsunami-affected area. There were multiple-year supplies of antibiotics, and palette loads of drugs unknown to health care providers. Seventy percent of it was labeled in a language that locals did not understand.
Disasters like the Haiti earthquake and the Indian Ocean tsunami present colossal logistical challenges. Nonetheless, in Aceh officials and relief workers did their best to sort through this stock: Drugs were stored in private homes, in hospitals rooms and corridors (despite a desperate shortage of space for patients). Eighty-four percent of the facilities lacked air conditioning, rendering their contents unusable, according to the study. A large depot near Aceh’s airport was so overwhelmed that mountains of pricey pharmaceuticals were dumped outside to rot under the monsoons and tropical sun.
Of course, the donors were only trying to help, but misplaced intentions actually worsened the suffering. Buried under care packages and out of date antibiotics labeled in Thai and Chinese were the world’s most advanced malaria medications. Meanwhile along the coast, people who had just lost homes and families writhed in malarial fever for lack of treatment.
In the end, most of the drugs had to be incinerated — you can’t simply send such a stock to the dump, where it would seep into the ground water and create another health hazard. That cost donors and the Indonesian government millions.
Aceh was by no means unusual in this regard. Massive shipments of useless medicine arrived on the scenes of other heavily televised disasters, such as the Armenian earthquake in 1988 and the Albanian exodus from Kosovo in the late 1990s. After the war ended in Bosnia, 17,000 tons of inappropriate donations had to be burned, according to Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres. Aid workers struggling to ease suffering after Hurricane Mitch reportedly worked late into the night sorting through half-used tubes of Preparation H and opened bottles of Prozac.
Such harmful donations will almost certainly flood Haiti as well in the coming days. But if you want to help,send money to a reputable aid group instead.
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct a figure concerning the amount of aid distributed to Aceh victims of the December 2004 tsunami. Officials received more than 4 pounds for each person in the tsunami-affected area, rather than 8 pounds for each person in the province as previously stated. The story was later updated to clarify the photo caption.
Follow David Case on Twitter: @DavidCaseReport