BEAUMONT, Texas (FOX 26) - It's been six months since Hurricane Harvey and one of the most dramatic scenes to emerge from the catastrophe was eight tiny babies being airlifted out of a neonatal intensive care unit in Beaumont. They had to leave their mothers when the entire city lost water when the pumps flooded. Now those children and their families are reuniting with the doctors and nurses who kept them alive during the storm.
One by one they arrived. Once the tiniest and most fragile of babies in the NICU, now holding up their heads and eating well.
Their journey began at Baptist Beaumont Hospital six months ago.
"They were as little as 30 weeks or two pounds up to a full term baby having breathing trouble."
Cooper was literally years in the making.
“He's actually an in vitro baby,” Cooper’s dad Amos Wilfer said. “You think ‘it's finally here’. We get to meet our boy. And you're in the delivery room and didn't hear him crying.”
Little did they know, Cooper was about to begin a journey that would take him dozens of miles away from home alongside seven other newborns in the NICU.
“Nobody knew how I felt not having my baby home, not be able to hold him, when he cries I’m not there," Trenton’s mom Kourtney Berry said.
Outside the hospital there were frantic efforts to evacuate people in Beaumont from the flooding left behind by Harvey. The city's entire water supply was cut off. The pumps had flooded. The lack of water forced Baptist to move 200 patients to other facilities—with a priority on moving the critically ill and babies first.
The babies include Cooper, Itzel and Trenton. They all made the trip from Beaumont to Galveston with a dedicated team of doctors and nurses.
"We probably spent 72 hours straight trying to figure out what's the safest thing to do for all our patients and staff," said neonatologist Dr. Snehal Doshi.
With the roads impassable, the babies had to be airlifted by helicopter to Galveston’s UTMB Hospital.
Amos Wilfer captured video of his newborn son taking off without him and his wife.
“I was sitting there watching the helicopter fly off, videoing it, and I was thinking how neat it was he's getting to fly on a helicopter at such a young age and I look down at my wife, and I see her bawling. It was rough,” Wilfer said.
We showed the mothers video of their babies arriving at UTMB that they had never seen.
“It brings back a lot of memories. Before she left, we came to see her and I remember I broke down in tears," Itzel’s mom Martha Sifuentes said.
"I was so afraid he wouldn't be able to make it, something would happen,” Berry said.
The parents were reassured knowing their doctor and nurses in Beaumont not only made the trip with them, but stayed for days by their side. The profession, after all, is so much more than a job, but a calling.
"I think it's the right thing to do. So I think you have to take care of your patient. The families trusted us to take care of their babies,” Dr. Doshi said.
Six months later, the babies are hitting major milestones.
“Well he's now got two teeth, he said ‘mom’ for the first time last night,” Cooper’s mom said.
“Personally, me being a dad, this is what I was made to do. I don't know anything else that's better. I really don't,” Wilfer said.
The employees at Baptist are now more than just doctors and nurses.
"We were there so long they actually became more like family,” Sifuentes said.
And for those nurses, it's a love that's come full circle.