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'Camp Irma': Expecting parents sheltered together in hospital become lifelong friends

Posted at 7:57 PM, Sep 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-15 19:57:40-04

When Hurricane Irma was aiming towards Palm Beach County, Kami Batchelder was worried.

"I was 38 weeks pregnant,” Batchelder said. "I was scared that if I went into labor at home that we would have complications and people wouldn't be able to get to us."

She and her husband decided to go to Jupiter Medical Center before the storm hit and they weren't the only ones.

"We called it camp Irma,” said Santo DeGangi. “We had air matt set up."

A total of 19 expecting couples took shelter at the hospital. 

"We were all wondering: How are we going to fit in here? We all had numbers posted to ourselves. I was number 3,” said Todd Batchelder.

The hurricane proof windows gave them the perfect view of the storm.

"It was very loud, very scary,” said Nichole Cook. “It was quite the experience staying here on a blow up mattress, being 9 months pregnant."

As the storm picked up outside, the group made the best of the situation.

"It was like a sleep over party with all your new friends,” said Tim Looney. 
 
They dads had their own method to take off the edge.

"It was crazy,” said Bill Cook. “But thank God some of the dads brought a little bit of alcohol so we had that. So that was a perfect experience there."
 
None of the moms gave birth during Hurricane Irma. On Monday morning they all left the hospital. 

"I went into labor on Tuesday so I think I was the first of the refugees to give birth,” said Kami Batchelder. 

One by one they all came back to give birth. 

"Camp Irma! Everybody is back,” said Tim Looney. 
 
"We were checking in on everybody's birth as they went and pretty much every five hours somebody else had a baby,” said Stephanie DeGangi.

They’re going home with more than just a good story to tell. 

"We met lifelong friends in the process,” said Bill Cook.
 
Of the 19 couples, 9 gave birth while others are still waiting. 

"We're so thankful to have met some great friends here and be able to have friends for our little one,” said Kelly Looney.