Deployed under an Emergency Management Assistance Compact agreement between Arkansas and Louisiana, one ambulance and two paramedics from Spring River Paramedic Ambulance Service provided assistance to residents of Louisiana during Hurricane Gustav. The crew was dispatched on Aug. 30 and remained until Sept. 2. They were recalled due to the threat of severe weather in Sharp County when the remnants of the hurricane passed through our area.
Paramedics Jeff Graefe and Andy Schisler were initially stationed in Alexandria, La., where they spent the night in the back of their ambulance. Their second night was spent in hospital rooms in Monroe. On Sept. 1, the crew witnessed Gustav's destruction first hand when the storm front came through the Alexandria area with high winds that blew over trees and ripped roofs off of houses. Their final night was spent in a hotel room with no power and a leaking roof.
While the crew did managed to get a hot meal or two along the way, they took most of their food and water with them in the ambulance, enabling them to be self sufficient while providing care to the hurricane victims.
Although Graefe stated, "People in need got the help they needed. The people we dealt with were very appreciative of the help we were providing," that doesn't mean everything went smoothly. The crew spent 15 hours one day on a single transport of a home-bound special needs patient, as they were re-routed to various shelters from Baton Rouge to Monroe. They were finally able to deliver their patient to E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe at midnight, after beginning the call at 9 a.m.
This is not the first time an SRPAS crew has responded to help neighbors to the south. In 2005, a crew spent six days in east Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.