It was September, 2003. The skies were cloudy; the day was dreary, cool and rainy. The wind was gusting at 40 miles an hour as Hurricane Isabel prepared to introduce herself to coastal Virginia. At Portsmouth Naval Hospital, preparations began a week earlier, schedules were formed, the control center was established, staff was on alert and ready to handle whatever Isabel threw at us
It was anticipated that Isabel would make landfall off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which proved to be accurate. In fact, during the storm, Hatteras Island was breached, creating what is now known as Isabel Inlet.
During the Director’s meeting a few days before Isabel made her arrival, Admiral Burkhard asked our opinion of whether or not to bring in all the women expected to deliver on or around the middle of September. At the time, I was the Senior Nurse Executive and Nurse Researcher. When the judgment around the table was mixed, Admiral Burkhard asked me to review the literature to determine if there was any significant correlation between the drop in atmospheric pressure that routinely occurs before a major storm and deliveries.
My search turned up 3 articles. One was conclusive that there was a very high likelihood that more women would deliver their babies with a significant drop in barometric pressure and two articles that were equivocal. My professional opinion was to bring in as many women as would like to come.
So, on the day & night before Hurricane Isabel made landfall, there was one delivery. On the day/night Hurricane Isabel hit the coast, with peak winds of 83mph; sixteen (16) babies were born!!! In the morning, Admiral Burkhard, several directors and I made rounds throughout the hospital to thank everyone for their dedication and endurance. On Labor & Delivery and our Mother-Baby unit, the Admiral visited every mom. NONE of the babies were named Isabel…NONE! Today, Isabel, or Bella, is a very popular name thanks to “The Twilight” series by Stephanie Meyers.
By the time this column is published, the Hurricane season will be over and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have long departed. However, lives were lost and the damage is beyond extensive. Recovery is ongoing. There always seems to be stories of hope and even humor when our nation suffers catastrophes as this. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by these storms.
Robin McKenzie, President NNCA