Union City couple Nelson Hango and Angela Giovanni gave birth to their first child, daughter Audrina, at Meadowlands Hospital on Sunday while Hurricane Irene roared through the region. After the couple desperately tried to traverse flooded roads throughout Secaucus, a Hudson County Sheriff’s SWAT vehicle was called to take the couple across Meadowlands Parkway, which was flooded with water from an overflowing Hackensack River and was not accessible by car or ambulance.
“It was like an action movie,” said Giovanni. She went into labor after midnight on Sunday and spent all night in the hospital during the height of the storm.
“It was like an action movie.” – Angela Giovanni
While Giovanni brushed off the contractions as ordinary pregnancy pains, Hango was anxious.
“I was really nervous,” said Hango, 42. “I prayed the night before…told [Audrina] to hold [on] till Monday,” he added.
Regarding weather forecasts, Giovanni said, “It is New Jersey, and we never get anything. They made it seem like [we were going to be] shut in for days.”
Encountering blockades across Secaucus
The couple left their house at noon on Sunday, with Giovanni reluctant to go after Hango made the call that it was time.
“All roads were closed,” said Hango.
While Giovanni screamed in labor, Hango tried every route possible to get to Meadowlands Hospital, but found all the roadways blocked by storm conditions. Meadowlands Parkway, Secaucus Road, parts of County Avenue, and 10th Street were also closed off due to flooding.
“[It] took almost an hour to get here because of the driving around,” said Giovanni.
“People were kayaking on Meadowlands Parkway,” said Tom Gregorio, CEO of Meadowlands Hospital. He said there was up to 4 feet of water on the road.
The couple pulled over to the side of Front Street and Fifth after giving up on getting there on their own and called 911.
Police arrived immediately, followed by an ambulance. The couple was first taken to Huber Street School, where Meadowlands Hospital had set up an outpost Emergency Room. Then they were taken to the hospital in a SWAT vehicle.
Arriving just in time
“I don’t even remember the ride on the SWAT truck,” said Giovanni.
The couple arrived at the hospital at 1:05 p.m. and the baby was born at 2:05 p.m. Meadowlands Hospital chose to stay open during the hurricane and had a mobile triage unit at one of the shelters. Electricity went out from two different energy sources but the hospital had back-up generators, enough to power the hospital for seven days.
The hospital also treated several patients with chest pains. Gregorio said the hospital will look into purchasing amphibious vehicles to get through deep water should another flood emergency occur.
Ups and downs
The couple found out they were pregnant the day before New Year’s while visiting the father’s family in Ambato, Ecuador. The entire pregnancy was not short of ups and downs. The couple experienced a volcanic eruption in Ecuador. Also, Giovanni became sick after returning to the U.S., and again became ill after a bout with pneumonia last month.
Despite the difficult pregnancy, baby Audrina arrived at a healthy 6 pounds and 13 ounces, and mother and child are doing fine.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.