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At nursing home, seniors endure Irene's wrath

Arthur Burnet was pretty sanguine about it all. The 87-year-old World War II veteran who had survived the Battle of the Bulge and the Normandy invasion said he could endure a few lights out at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale, where he has lived for three years.

“It’s a situation,” he said with a broad smile and shrug as he sat in his wheelchair in the darkened office of administrator Anthony Restaino midday Tuesday. The nursing home, with its 589 residents, lost power at 3:20 a.m. Sunday. Within seconds, the four generators kicked in, and there was never a threat to patient care or safety, Restaino said.

But power from the generators was allocated to priority areas. That meant patients’ rooms were lit only by the glow from ceiling lights in the hallway, where only every third light was on.

That didn’t bother Marilyn Richter, 76, who said she was still able to sit in her room and listen to Eddy Arnold or Alabama on her iPod. “I don’t miss TV, to tell you the truth,” she said.

Lack of coffee for two days seemed the source of most grumbling: The coffee maker could not be hooked up to one of the emergency outlets. But the kitchen staff figured out how to make the hot brew so residents could get their caffeine fix.

For all their stoicism, residents and staff alike were elated when power was restored at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday. “There was lots of clapping and cheering,” Restaino reported. “It was almost like being at a Yankees game.”

That was little comfort to Mary Jean Weber, chief executive of St. Johnland Nursing Home in Kings Park. When told that, according to the state Department of Health, her nursing home was one of three on Long Island still operating on a generator late Tuesday afternoon, she sighed. “I always knew we were special,” she said.

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