Iowa Alumni Magazine | December 2005 | People

After the Storm: Chad Andrews

By Kathryn Howe

The night before his arrival in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, Chad Andrews lay awake in an Army barracks, listening to the buzz saw snoring of the disaster morticians who filled nearby bunks. It was too hot to sleep anyway and he wondered what he would encounter in the place that bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath.

An on-call paramedic with the Johnson County Ambulance Service, Andrews dropped everything and went to the Gulf Coast with the Iowa Disaster Medical Assistance Team, part of a federal network of trainees that provide emergency medical care following natural disasters. Andrews’ convoy rolled into Bay Saint Louis exactly two days after Katrina demolished the town’s infrastructure and threw cars, homes, and businesses around like sticks. The team established a field hospital in the parking lot of a medical center and began treating hurricane victims, sometimes more than 400 a day.

As he absorbed his surroundings, Andrews could hardly believe his eyes. Inside the medical center, rising water had destroyed the entire ground floor, including the ER. An overwhelming stench permeated the hallways, where mud-covered gurneys remained scattered about. Patients reported seeing fish floating outside their windows and local doctors walked around like zombies because they’d just worked 48 hours without rest. “Man, were they glad to see us,” says Andrews, an investment representative for Edward Jones in Iowa City. “The whole scene was unbelievably surreal—like a sci-fi movie.”

Every morning, team members woke up to a long line of patients. They worked 16 hours a day to fill hundreds of prescriptions and tend to puncture wounds, bumps and cuts, dehydration, and heat exhaustion.

With his financial expertise, Andrews managed most of the bookkeeping tasks. Although he witnessed true desperation, the ten days spent in Mississippi provided one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. “I was reminded of the things we take for granted,” says Andrews. “It was an important lesson in gratitude.”