MANILA—It was bath time for most of the babies at the neonatal intensive case unit (NICU) of the Philippine General Hospital when fire struck the building's 3rd floor early Sunday.
Nurse Kathrina Macababbad said she was bathing the newborns when they were informed that a fire began at the operating room sterilization area one floor below.
Macababbad and others on duty quickly gathered all the babies they could evacuate, as smoke rose to the NICU, which was situated on the fourth floor of PGH.
Macababbad said she and her colleague Jomar Mallari went back 4 times to evacuate critical babies who needed oxygen support, saving 35 babies in total.
"Snappy po kami lahat na kumuha ng baby na kayang maligtas," she told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(We were all snappy when we took babies we could save.)
"No one should be left behind po. Kaya po talagang nilakasan po namin ang loob namin. Kinakakatakutan ’yung guilt po na may baby na naiwan, na namatay ’yun po ang di ko matanggap."
(We really strengthened our resolve, because no one should be left behind. I was afraid of the guilt that would come if a baby was left behind or died.)
PGH head chaplain Fr. Lito Ocon opened the chapel's doors to the babies seeking shelter.
Ocon said he was familiar with the NICU as nurses and doctors often call the chapel for emergency baptism when babies are under critical condition.
"Tumulong kami sa pag-set up ng kanilang bed kasi may babies na kinakailangan maayos ilapag sa bed, iyong critical condition at life support bago sila nailipat sa ibang hospital," he said.
(We helped in setting up beds, because there are babies that needed to be laid down properly due to their critical condition, before they were transferred to another hospital.)
"Sila ’yung sinubukang umakyat sa taas kahit makapal na ang smoke at bawal na pumasok . . . Para lang mailabas ang mga bata at makalabas ang 2 doctor na naiwan doon dahil ayaw umalis kasi maiiwan ang 7 bata," Ocon said of Macabbabad and her colleague.
(They were the ones who rushed back upstairs even if the smoke was thick and authorities were prohibiting reentry just to save the babies and 2 doctors who stayed because 7 newborns were left behind.)
The babies were double-tagged to ensure proper identification, Macababbad said.
The PGH hopes to reopen its emergency room Tuesday after it was used to evacuate virus and non-COVID patients during the fire early Sunday, its spokesman said Monday.